Transgenic creeping bentgrass overexpressing Osa-miR393a exhibits altered plant development and improved multiple stress tolerance

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MicroRNA393 (miR393) has been implicated in plant growth, development and multiple stress responses in annual species such as Arabidopsis and rice. However, the role of miR393 in perennial grasses remains unexplored. Creeping bentgrass (Agrostis stolonifera L.) is an environmentally and economically important C3 cool-season perennial turfgrass. Understanding how miR393 functions in this representative turf species would allow the development of novel strategies in genetically engineering grass species for improved abiotic stress tolerance. We have generated and characterized transgenic creeping bentgrass plants overexpressing rice pri-miR393a (Osa-miR393a). We found that Osa-miR393a transgenics had fewer, but longer tillers, enhanced drought stress tolerance associated with reduced stomata density and denser cuticles, improved salt stress tolerance associated with increased uptake of potassium and enhanced heat stress tolerance associated with induced expression of small heat-shock protein in comparison with wild-type controls. We also identified two targets of miR393, AsAFB2 and AsTIR1, whose expression is repressed in transgenics. Taken together, our results revealed the distinctive roles of miR393/target module in plant development and stress responses between creeping bentgrass and other annual species, suggesting that miR393 would be a promising candidate for generating superior crop cultivars with enhanced multiple stress tolerance, thus contributing to agricultural productivity.

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Plant Biotechnology Journal

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