History and current status of wheat miRNAs using next-generation sequencing and their roles in development and stress.

As small molecules that aid in posttranscriptional silencing, microRNA (miRNA) discovery and characterization have vastly benefited from the recent development and widespread application of next-generation sequencing (NGS) technologies. Several miRNAs were identified through sequencing of constructed small RNA libraries, whereas others were predicted by in silico methods using the recently accumulating sequence data. NGS was a major breakthrough in efforts to sequence and dissect the genomes of plants, including bread wheat and its progenitors, which have large, repetitive and complex genomes. Availability of survey sequences of wheat whole genome and its individual chromosomes enabled researchers to predict and assess wheat miRNAs both in the subgenomic and whole genome levels. Moreover, small RNA construction and sequencing-based studies identified several putative development- and stress-related wheat miRNAs, revealing their differential expression patterns in specific developmental stages and/or in response to stress conditions. With the vast amount of wheat miRNAs identified in recent years, we are approaching to an overall knowledge on the wheat miRNA repertoire. In the following years, more comprehensive research in relation to miRNA conservation or divergence across wheat and its close relatives or progenitors should be performed. Results may serve valuable in understanding both the significant roles of species-specific miRNAs and also provide us information in relation to the dynamics between miRNAs and evolution in wheat. Furthermore, putative development- or stress-related miRNAs identified should be subjected to further functional analysis, which may be valuable in efforts to develop wheat with better resistance and/or yield.

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