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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Members of miR-169 family are induced by high salinity and transiently inhibit the NF-YA transcription factor

Botao Zhao1, Liangfa Ge2, Ruqiang Liang1, Wei Li1, Kangcheng Ruan1, Hongxuan Lin2 and Youxin Jin1*

Author Affiliations

1 State Key Laboratory of Molecular Biology, Institute of Biochemistry and Cell Biology, Shanghai Institutes for Biological Sciences, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Shanghai, 200031, PR China

2 National Key Laboratory of Plant Molecular Genetics, Institute of Plant Physiology and Ecology, Shanghai Institutes for Biological Sciences, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Shanghai 200032, PR China

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BMC Molecular Biology 2009, 10:29  doi:10.1186/1471-2199-10-29

Published: 8 April 2009



MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are endogenously expressed small RNAs with a length of about 21 nt. MiRNAs silence their target genes at the post-transcriptional level. In plants, miRNAs play various developmental and physiological roles by cleavaging mRNAs predominantly. Drought and high salinity are the most severe environmental abiotic stresses and cause crop losses all over the world.


In this study, we identified miR-169g and miR-169n (o) as high salinity-responsive miRNAs in rice. MiR-169n and miR169o were in a miRNA cluster with a distance of 3707 base pairs (bp). The high degree of conservation and close phylogenic distance of pre-miR-169n and pre-miR-169o indicated that they were derived from a very recent tandem duplication evolutionary event. The existence of a cis-acting abscisic acid responsive element (ABRE) in the upstream region of miR-169n (o) suggested that miR-169n (o) may be regulated by ABA. In our previous study, we found that miR-169g was induced by the osmotic stress caused by drought via a dehydration-responsive element (DRE). Thus, our data showed that there were both overlapping and distinct responses of the miR-169 family to drought and salt stresses. We also showed that these miR-169 members selectively cleaved one of the NF-YA genes, Os03g29760, which is a CCAAT-box binding transcription factor and participates in transcriptional regulation of large number genes. Finally, we found one or more ath-miR-169 member that was also induced by high salinity.


We identified members of the miR-169 family as salt-induced miRNAs and analyzed their evolution, gene organization, expression, transcriptional regulation motif and target gene. Our data also indicated that the salt-induction of some miR-169 members was a general property in plants.