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Open Access Research article

smRNAome profiling to identify conserved and novel microRNAs in Stevia rebaudiana Bertoni

Vibha Mandhan, Jagdeep Kaur and Kashmir Singh*

Author Affiliations

Department of Biotechnology, Panjab University, Sector 14, Chandigarh, 160014, India

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BMC Plant Biology 2012, 12:197  doi:10.1186/1471-2229-12-197

Published: 1 November 2012



MicroRNAs (miRNAs) constitute a family of small RNA (sRNA) population that regulates the gene expression and plays an important role in plant development, metabolism, signal transduction and stress response. Extensive studies on miRNAs have been performed in different plants such as Arabidopsis thaliana, Oryza sativa etc. and volume of the miRNA database, mirBASE, has been increasing on day to day basis. Stevia rebaudiana Bertoni is an important perennial herb which accumulates high concentrations of diterpene steviol glycosides which contributes to its high indexed sweetening property with no calorific value. Several studies have been carried out for understanding molecular mechanism involved in biosynthesis of these glycosides, however, information about miRNAs has been lacking in S. rebaudiana. Deep sequencing of small RNAs combined with transcriptomic data is a powerful tool for identifying conserved and novel miRNAs irrespective of availability of genome sequence data.


To identify miRNAs in S. rebaudiana, sRNA library was constructed and sequenced using Illumina genome analyzer II. A total of 30,472,534 reads representing 2,509,190 distinct sequences were obtained from sRNA library. Based on sequence similarity, we identified 100 miRNAs belonging to 34 highly conserved families. Also, we identified 12 novel miRNAs whose precursors were potentially generated from stevia EST and nucleotide sequences. All novel sequences have not been earlier described in other plant species. Putative target genes were predicted for most conserved and novel miRNAs. The predicted targets are mainly mRNA encoding enzymes regulating essential plant metabolic and signaling pathways.


This study led to the identification of 34 highly conserved miRNA families and 12 novel potential miRNAs indicating that specific miRNAs exist in stevia species. Our results provided information on stevia miRNAs and their targets building a foundation for future studies to understand their roles in key stevia traits.

Stevia rebaudiana; Next generation sequencing; Small RNAs; Conserved and novel miRNA; miRNA targets