While DNA methylation carries genetic signals and is instrumental in the evolution of organismal complexity, small RNAs (sRNAs), ∼18–24 ribonucleotide (nt) sequences, are crucial mediators of methylation as well as gene silencing. However, scant study deals with sRNA evolution via featuring their expression dynamics coupled with species of different evolutionary time. Here we report an atlas of sRNAs and microRNAs (miRNAs, single-stranded sRNAs) produced over time at seed-set of two major spermatophytes represented by populations of Picea glauca and Arabidopsis thaliana with different seed-set duration. We applied diverse profiling methods to examine sRNA and miRNA features, including size distribution, sequence conservation and reproduction-specific regulation, as well as to predict their putative targets. The top 27 most abundant miRNAs were highly overlapped between the two species (e.g., miR166,−319 and−396), but in P. glauca, they were less abundant and significantly less correlated with seed-set phases. The most abundant sRNAs in libraries were deeply conserved miRNAs in the plant kingdom for Arabidopsis but long sRNAs (24-nt) for P. glauca. We also found significant difference in normalized expression between populations for population-specific sRNAs but not for lineage-specific ones. Moreover, lineage-specific sRNAs were enriched in the 21-nt size class. This pattern is consistent in both species and alludes to a specific type of sRNAs (e.g., miRNA, tasiRNA) being selected for. In addition, we deemed 24 and 9 sRNAs in P. glauca and Arabidopsis, respectively, as sRNA candidates targeting known adaptive genes. Temperature had significant influence on selected gene and miRNA expression at seed development in both species. This study increases our integrated understanding of sRNA evolution and its potential link to genomic architecture (e.g., sRNA derivation from genome and sRNA-mediated genomic events) and organismal complexity (e.g., association between different sRNA expression and their functionality).
Liu, Y., & El-Kassaby, Y. A. (2017). Global analysis of small RNA dynamics during seed development of picea glauca and arabidopsis thaliana populations reveals insights on their evolutionary trajectories. Frontiers in Plant Science, 8. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpls.2017.01719