PLOS ONE, vol.8, no.3, 2013 (SCI-Expanded)
Boron stress is an environmental factor affecting plant development and production. Recently, microRNAs (miRNAs) have been found to be involved in several plant processes such as growth regulation and stress responses. In this study, miRNAs associated with boron stress were identified and characterized in barley. miRNA profiles were also comparatively analyzed between root and leave samples. A total of 31 known and 3 new miRNAs were identified in barley; 25 of them were found to respond to boron treatment. Several miRNAs were expressed in a tissue specific manner; for example, miR156d, miR171a, miR397, and miR444a were only detected in leaves. Additionally, a total of 934 barley transcripts were found to be specifically targeted and degraded by miRNAs. In silico analysis of miRNA target genes demonstrated that many miRNA targets are conserved transcription factors such as Squamosa promoter-binding protein, Auxin response factor (ARF), and the MYB transcription factor family. A majority of these targets were responsible for plant growth and response to environmental changes. We also propose that some of the miRNAs in barley such as miRNA408 might play critical roles against boron exposure. In conclusion, barley may use several pathways and cellular processes targeted by miRNAs to cope with boron stress.