Major Domestication-Related Phenotypes in Indica Rice Are Due to Loss of miRNA-Mediated Laccase Silencing

Plant Cell. 2018 Nov;30(11):2649-2662. doi: 10.1105/tpc.18.00472. Epub 2018 Oct 19.


Domestication of rice (Oryza sativa) included conversion of perennial wild species with few seeds to short plants that produced abundant seeds. Most domestication-associated changes were due to variations in transcription factors and other key proteins such as enzymes. Here, we show that multiple yield-related traits associated with indica rice domestication are linked to micro (mi) RNA-mediated regulation. Analysis of small (s) RNA data sets from cultivated indica rice lines, a few landraces, and two wild relatives of rice revealed the presence of abundant 22-nucleotide (nt) reads in wild relatives that mapped to miR397 precursors. miR397 was expressed at very high levels in wild relatives and at negligible levels in high-yielding cultivated lines. In its genera-specific form of 22-nt, miR397 targeted mRNAs encoding laccases that decayed and induced robust secondary cascade silencing in wild species that required RNA-dependent RNA polymerase 6. In wild species of rice, reduced expression of laccases resulted in low lignification. As expected, overexpression of miR397 induced de-domestication phenotypes. At least 26 uncharacterized QTLs previously implicated in rice yield overlapped with laccases and miR397 genes. These results suggest that miRNAs contribute to rice domestication-associated phenotypes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Laccase / genetics*
  • MicroRNAs / genetics*
  • Oryza / enzymology*
  • Oryza / genetics*
  • Quantitative Trait Loci / genetics


  • MicroRNAs
  • Laccase