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. 2013;8(3):e59543.
doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0059543. Epub 2013 Mar 26.

Boron Stress Responsive microRNAs and Their Targets in Barley

Free PMC article

Boron Stress Responsive microRNAs and Their Targets in Barley

Esma Ozhuner et al. PLoS One. .
Free PMC article


Boron stress is an environmental factor affecting plant development and production. Recently, microRNAs (miRNAs) have been found to be involved in several plant processes such as growth regulation and stress responses. In this study, miRNAs associated with boron stress were identified and characterized in barley. miRNA profiles were also comparatively analyzed between root and leave samples. A total of 31 known and 3 new miRNAs were identified in barley; 25 of them were found to respond to boron treatment. Several miRNAs were expressed in a tissue specific manner; for example, miR156d, miR171a, miR397, and miR444a were only detected in leaves. Additionally, a total of 934 barley transcripts were found to be specifically targeted and degraded by miRNAs. In silico analysis of miRNA target genes demonstrated that many miRNA targets are conserved transcription factors such as Squamosa promoter-binding protein, Auxin response factor (ARF), and the MYB transcription factor family. A majority of these targets were responsible for plant growth and response to environmental changes. We also propose that some of the miRNAs in barley such as miRNA408 might play critical roles against boron exposure. In conclusion, barley may use several pathways and cellular processes targeted by miRNAs to cope with boron stress.

Conflict of interest statement

Competing Interests: Turgay Unver and Baohong Zhang are PLOS ONE Board members. This does not alter the authors’ adherence to all the PLOS ONE policies on sharing data and materials.


Figure 1
Figure 1. The secondary stem-loop structures of several identified miRNAs in barley.
Mature miRNA sequences are marked in red color.
Figure 2
Figure 2. Expression levels of selected miRNAs and targets in leaf and root tissues in response to boron stress.
Target plots of miRNA targets validated by degradome analysis (cleavage site are red letter) (B: Boron, L: Leaf, R: Root, miR: miRNA name, tar: miRNA target gene).

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The authors gratefully acknowledge the support of the Scientific and Technological Research Coucil of Turkey (TUBITAK) with grant numbers 109O661 and 111O036 and Ministry of Development of Turkish Republic with grant number DPT2010K120720. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.