In recent decades, the presence of cadmium (Cd) in the environment has increased significantly due to anthropogenic activities. Cd is taken up from the soil by plant roots for its subsequent translocation to shoots. However, Cd is a non-essential heavy metal and is therefore toxic to plants when it over-accumulates. MicroRNA (miRNA)-directed gene expression regulation is central to the response of a plant to Cd stress. Here, we document the miRNA-directed response of wild-type Arabidopsis thaliana
) plants and the drb1
mutant lines to Cd stress. Phenotypic and physiological analyses revealed the drb1
mutant to display the highest degree of tolerance to the imposed stress while the drb2
mutant was the most sensitive. RT-qPCR-based molecular profiling of miRNA abundance and miRNA target gene expression revealed DRB1 to be the primary double-stranded RNA binding (DRB) protein required for the production of six of the seven Cd-responsive miRNAs analyzed. However, DRB2, and not DRB1, was determined to be required for miR396 production. RT-qPCR further inferred that transcript cleavage was the RNA silencing mechanism directed by each assessed miRNA to control miRNA target gene expression. Taken together, the results presented here reveal the complexity of the miRNA-directed molecular response of Arabidopsis
to Cd stress.
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