Plants have evolved sophisticated defense systems to enhance drought tolerance. These include the microRNA (miRNA) group of small noncoding RNAs that act as post-transcriptional regulators; however, details of the mechanisms by which they confer drought tolerance are not well understood. Here, we show that osa-MIR171f, a member of osa-MIR171 gene family, is mainly expressed in response to drought stress and regulates the transcript levels of SCARECROW-LIKE6-I (SCL6-I) and SCL6-II in rice (Oryza sativa). The SCL6 genes are known to be involved in shoot branching and flag leaf morphology. Osa-MIR171f-overexpressing (osa-MIR171f-OE) transgenic plants showed reduced drought symptoms compared with non-transgenic (NT) control plants under both field drought and polyethylene glycol (PEG)-mediated dehydration stress conditions. Transcriptome analysis of osa-MIR171f-OE plants and osa-mir171f-knockout (K/O) lines generated by clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats (CRISPR/Cas9) revealed that osa-mature-miR171a-f (osa-miR171) regulates the expression of flavonoid biosynthesis genes, consequently leading to drought tolerance. This upregulation in the osa-MIR171f-OE plants, which did not occur in NT control plants, was observed under both normal and drought conditions. Our findings indicate that osa-miR171 plays a role in drought tolerance by regulating SCL6-I and SCL6-II transcript levels.
Keywords: Osa‐miR171f; Rice; SCL6; drought; flavonoids; miR171.
© 2022 The Authors. Plant Direct published by American Society of Plant Biologists and the Society for Experimental Biology and John Wiley & Sons Ltd.