Despite many studies about functions of miR396 were concentrated on cotyledon and leaf growth and development, only few researches were focused on flower and fruit, especially for fleshy fruit, for example, tomato fruit. Here, the roles of miR396 throughout the growth and development of tomato plant were explored with combining bioinformatics and transgene-mediated methods. In tomato, miR396 had two mature types (miR396a and miR396b), and miR396a expressed significantly higher than miR396b in cotyledon, flower, sepal and fruit. Generally, plant growth and development were regulated by miR396 via growth-regulating factors (GRFs). In tomato, all 13 SlGRFs were analyzed comprehensively, including phylogeny, domain and expression patterns. To investigate the roles of miR396 further, STTM396a/396a-88 was over-expressed in tomato, which induced miR396a and miR396b both dramatical down-regulation, and the target GRFs general up-regulation. As a result, the flowers, sepals and fruits all obviously became bigger. Most significantly, the sepal length of transgenic lines #3 and #4 at 39 days post-anthesis was separately increased 75% and 81%, and the fruit weight was added 45% and 39%, respectively. Overall, these results revealed novel roles of miR396 in regulating flower and fruit development, and provided a new potential way for improving tomato fruit yield.
Keywords: Cotyledon; Fruit weight; Growth-regulating factor; Sepal length; miR396.
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