Heat stress is one of the major abiotic factors that can induce severe plant damage, leading to a decrease in crop plant productivity. Despite barley being a cereal of great economic importance, few data are available concerning its thermotolerance mechanisms. In this work microRNAs (miRNAs) involved in heat stress response in barley were investigated. The level of selected barley mature miRNAs was examined by hybridization. Quantitative real-time PCR (RT-qPCR) was used to monitor the changes in the expression profiles of primary miRNA (pri-miRNA) precursors, as well as novel and conserved target genes during heat stress. The miRNA-mediated cleavage sites in the target transcripts were confirmed by degradome analysis and the 5' RACE (rapid amplification of cDNA ends) approach. Four barley miRNAs (miR160a, 166a, 167h, and 5175a) were found which are heat stress up-regulated at the level of both mature miRNAs and precursor pri-miRNAs. Moreover, the splicing of introns hosting miR160a and miR5175a is also heat induced. The results demonstrate transcriptional and post-transcriptional regulation of heat-responsive miRNAs in barley. The observed induction of miRNA expression is correlated with the down-regulation of the expression level of their experimentally identified new and conservative target genes.
Keywords: Barley; heat stress; microRNA; pri-miRNA; splicing; target gene..
© The Author 2014. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Society for Experimental Biology.