Potato virus Y (PVY) isolate PVYC-to induces growth reduction and foliar symptoms in tomato, but new vegetation displays symptom recovery at a later stage. In order to investigate the role of micro(mi)RNA and secondary small(s)RNA-regulated mechanisms in tomato defenses against PVY, we performed sRNA sequencing from healthy and PVYC-to infected tomato plants at 21 and 30 days post-inoculation (dpi). A total of 792 miRNA sequences were obtained, among which were 123 canonical miRNA sequences, many isomiR variants, and 30 novel miRNAs. MiRNAs were mostly overexpressed in infected vs. healthy plants, whereas only a few miRNAs were underexpressed. Increased accumulation of isomiRs was correlated with viral infection. Among miRNA targets, enriched functional categories included resistance (R) gene families, transcription and hormone factors, and RNA silencing genes. Several 22-nt miRNAs were shown to target R genes and trigger the production of 21-nt phased sRNAs (phasiRNAs). Next, 500 phasiRNA-generating loci were identified, and were shown to be mostly active in PVY-infected tissues and at 21 dpi. These data demonstrate that sRNA-regulated host responses, encompassing miRNA alteration, diversification within miRNA families, and phasiRNA accumulation, regulate R and disease-responsive genes. The dynamic regulation of miRNAs and secondary sRNAs over time suggests a functional role of sRNA-mediated defenses in the recovery phenotype.
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