Email updates

Keep up to date with the latest news and content from BMC Genomics and BioMed Central.

Open Access Open Badges Research article

Genome-wide identification, molecular cloning, expression profiling and posttranscriptional regulation analysis of the Argonaute gene family in Salvia miltiorrhiza, an emerging model medicinal plant

Fenjuan Shao and Shanfa Lu*

Author affiliations

Institute of Medicinal Plant Development, Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences & Peking Union Medical College, No.151, Malianwa North Road, Haidian District, Beijing 100193, China

For all author emails, please log on.

Citation and License

BMC Genomics 2013, 14:512  doi:10.1186/1471-2164-14-512

Published: 29 July 2013



Argonaute (AGO) is the core component of RNA-induced silencing complex. The AGO gene family has been analyzed in various plant species; however, there is no report about AGOs in the well-known Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) plant, Salvia miltiorrhiza.


Through a genome-wide analysis, we identified ten SmAGO genes in S. miltiorrhiza. Full-length cDNAs of all SmAGOs were subsequently cloned and sequenced. These SmAGOs were characterized using a comprehensive approach. Sequence features, gene structures and conserved domains were analyzed by the comparison of SmAGOs and AtAGOs. Phylogenetic relationships among AGO proteins from S. miltiorrhiza, Arabidopsis and rice were revealed. The expression levels of SmAGO genes in various tissues of S. miltiorrhiza were investigated. The results implied that some SmAGOs, such as SmAGO1, SmAGO2, SmAGO3, SmAGO7 and SmAGO10, probably played similar roles as their counterparts in Arabidopsis; whereas the others could be more species-specialized. It suggests the conservation and diversity of AGOs in plants. Additionally, we identified a total of 24 hairpin structures, representing six miRNA gene families, to be miRNA precursors. Using the modified 5′-RACE method, we confirmed that SmAGO1 and SmAGO2 were targeted by S. miltiorrhiza miR168a/b and miR403, respectively. It suggests the conservation of AGO1-miR168 and AGO2-miR403 regulatory modules in S. miltiorrhiza and Arabidopsis.


This is the first attempt to explore SmAGOs and miRNAs in S. miltiorrhiza. The results provide useful information for further elucidation of gene silencing pathways in S. miltiorrhiza.