Naturally occurring variations in sequence length creates microRNA isoforms that differ in argonaute effector complex specificity
Department of Biochemistry, School of Molecular and Systems Medicine, University of Alberta, Edmonton, T6G 2H7, Canada
Silence 2010, 1:12 doi:10.1186/1758-907X-1-12Published: 9 June 2010
Micro(mi)RNAs are short RNA sequences, ranging from 16 to 35 nucleotides (miRBase; http://www.mirbase.org webcite). The majority of the identified sequences are 21 or 22 nucleotides in length. Despite the range of sequence lengths for different miRNAs, individual miRNAs were thought to have a specific sequence of a particular length. A recent report describing a longer variant of a previously identified miRNA in Arabidopsis thaliana prompted this investigation for variations in the length of other miRNAs.
In this paper, we demonstrate that a fifth of annotated A. thaliana miRNAs recorded in miRBase V.14 have stable miRNA isoforms that are one or two nucleotides longer than their respective recorded miRNA. Further, we demonstrate that miRNA isoforms are co-expressed and often show differential argonaute complex association. We postulate that these extensions are caused by differential cleavage of the parent precursor miRNA.
Our systematic analysis of A. thaliana miRNAs reveals that miRNA length isoforms are relatively common. This finding not only has implications for miRBase and miRNA annotation, but also extends to miRNA validation experiments and miRNA localization studies. Further, we predict that miRNA isoforms are present in other plant species also.