Micro (mi)RNAs are 20-22nt long non-coding RNA molecules involved in post-transcriptional silencing of targets having high base-pair complementarity. Plant miRNAs are processed from long Pol II-transcripts with specific stem-loop structures by Dicer-like (DCL) 1 protein. Although there were reports indicating how a specific region is selected for miRNA biogenesis, molecular details were unclear. Here, we show that the presence of specific GC-rich sequence signature within miRNA/miRNA* region is required for the precise miRNA biogenesis. The involvement of GC-rich signatures in precise processing and abundance of miRNAs was confirmed through detailed molecular and functional analysis. Consistent with the presence of the miRNA-specific GC signature, target RNAs of miRNAs also possess conserved complementary sequence signatures in their miRNA binding motifs. The selection of these GC signatures was dependent on an RNA binding protein partner of DCL1 named HYL1. Finally, we demonstrate a direct application of this discovery for enhancing the abundance and efficiency of artificial miRNAs that are popular in plant functional genomic studies.
© The Author(s) 2020. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of Nucleic Acids Research.