In eukaryotes, small noncoding RNA molecules of 16–29 nucleotides in length play crucial roles in the regulation of gene expression. Some 377 sequences representing rice pseudo-microRNAs (miRNAs) are available in release 13.0 of themiRBase sequence database (http://microrna.sanger.ac.uk/ sequences/index.shtml) and are grouped into 143 families. Most newly deposited miRNA sequences are likely to be species-specific. To understand the relationship between miRNAs and transposable elements (TEs) in rice, the RepeatMasker application (http://www.repeatmasker.org/ cgi-bin/WEBRepeatMasker) was used to screen single- stranded precursor miRNA (pre-miRNA) sequences. This analysis revealed that 33.1% of miRNAs and 36.4% of miRNA families are associated with interspersed repeats, and most of them are species-specific. Furthermore, multiple miRNA families can be encoded by the same TE class. Alignment analysis revealed that miR439 originated from an MuDR4-OS TE, which amplified and diversified in the genome as an inverted repeat of the core sequence followed by multiple repeats. Multiple copies of miR445 and its complexity originate from and are driven by the DNA/Tourist TE class. These results provide an important contribution to the elucidation of TE-driven mechanisms that regulate the species specificity and complexity of rice miRNAs.
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