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Open Access Research article

Characterization and differential expression of microRNAs elicited by sulfur deprivation in Chlamydomonas reinhardtii

Longfei Shu123 and Zhangli Hu3*

Author Affiliations

1 Current Address: Dept. of Aquatic Ecology, Eawag, Switzerland

2 Current Address: Institute of Integrative Biology, ETH-Zurich, Switzerland

3 Shenzhen Key Laboratory of Marine Bioresource and Eco-environmental Science, College of Life Sciences, Shenzhen University, Shenzhen 518060, Peoples Republic of China

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BMC Genomics 2012, 13:108  doi:10.1186/1471-2164-13-108

Published: 22 March 2012



microRNAs (miRNAs) have been found to play an essential role in the modulation of numerous biological processes in eukaryotes. Chlamydomonas reinhardtii is an ideal model organism for the study of many metabolic processes including responses to sulfur-deprivation. We used a deep sequencing platform to extensively profile and identify changes in the miRNAs expression that occurred under sulfur-replete and sulfur-deprived conditions. The aim of our research was to characterize the differential expression of Chlamydomonas miRNAs under sulfur-deprived conditions, and subsequently, the target genes of miRNA involved in sulfur-deprivation were further predicted and analyzed.


By using high-throughput sequencing, we characterized the microRNA transcriptomes under sulphur-replete and sulfur-deprived conditions in Chlamydomonas reinhardtii. We predicted a total of 310 miRNAs which included 85 known miRNAs and 225 novel miRNAs. 13 miRNAs were the specific to the sulfur-deprived conditions. 47 miRNAs showed significantly differential expressions responding to sulfur-deprivation, and most were up-regulated in the small RNA libraries with sulfur-deprivation. Using a web-based integrated system (Web MicroRNAs Designer 3) and combing the former information from a transcriptome of Chlamydomonas reinhardtii, 22 miRNAs and their targets involved in metabolism regulation with sulfur-deprivation were verified.


Our results indicate that sulfur-deprivation may have a significant influence on small RNA expression patterns, and the differential expressions of miRNAs and interactions between miRNA and its targets might further reveal the molecular mechanism responding to sulfur-deprivation in Chlamydomonas reinhardtii.