Salt stress has detrimental effects on plant growth and development. MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are a class of noncoding RNAs that are involved in post-transcriptional gene expression regulation. In this study, small RNA sequencing was employed to identify the salt stress-responsive miRNAs of the salt-sensitive Hassawi-3 and the salt-tolerant ILB4347 genotypes of faba bean, growing under salt stress. A total of 527 miRNAs in Hassawi-3 plants, and 693 miRNAs in ILB4347 plants, were found to be differentially expressed. Additionally, 284 upregulated and 243 downregulated miRNAs in Hassawi-3, and 298 upregulated and 395 downregulated miRNAs in ILB4347 plants growing in control and stress conditions were recorded. Target prediction and annotation revealed that these miRNAs regulate specific salt-responsive genes, which primarily included genes encoding transcription factors and laccases, superoxide dismutase, plantacyanin, and F-box proteins. The salt-responsive miRNAs and their targets were functionally enriched by Gene Ontology (GO) and Kyoto Encyclopedia of Genes and Genomes (KEGG) pathway analyses, which showed that the miRNAs were involved in salt stress-related biological pathways, including the ABC transporter pathway, MAPK signaling pathway, plant hormone signal transduction, and the phosphatidylinositol signaling system, among others, suggesting that the miRNAs play an important role in the salt stress tolerance of the ILB4347 genotype. These results offer a novel understanding of the regulatory role of miRNAs in the salt response of the salt-tolerant ILB4347 and the salt-sensitive Hassawi-3 faba bean genotypes.
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