MicroRNA (miRNA) acts as a critical regulator of gene expression at post-transcriptional and occasionally transcriptional levels in plants. Identification of reliable miRNA genes, monitoring the procedures of transcription, processing and maturation of the miRNAs, quantification of the accumulation levels of the miRNAs in specific biological samples, and validation of miRNA-target interactions become the basis for thoroughly understanding of the miRNA-mediated regulatory networks and the underlying mechanisms. Great progresses have been achieved for sequencing technology. Based on the high degree of sequencing depth and coverage, the high-throughput sequencing (HTS, also called next-generation sequencing) technology provides unprecedentedly efficient way for genome-wide or transcriptome-wide studies. In this review, we will introduce several HTS platform-based methods useful for plant miRNA research, including RNA-seq (RNA sequencing), RNA-PET-seq (paired end tag sequencing of RNAs), sRNA-seq (small RNA sequencing), dsRNA-seq (double-stranded RNA sequencing), ssRNA-seq (single-stranded RNA sequencing) and degradome-seq (degradome sequencing). In particular, we will provide some special cases to illustrate the novel use of HTS methods for investigation of the processing modes of the miRNA precursors, identification of the RNA editing sites on miRNA precursors, mature miRNAs and target transcripts, re-examination of the current miRNA registries, and discovery of novel miRNA species and novel miRNA-target interactions. Summarily, we opinioned that integrative use of the above mentioned HTS methods could make the studies on miRNAs more efficient.
Keywords: RNA-PET-seq; degradome-seq; dsRNA-seq; plant microRNA; sRNA-seq; ssRNA-seq.