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Crop Biotech Update

MsmiR156 Improves Nitrogen Fixation in Alfalfa

July 5, 2017

Scientists from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) reported that microRNA156 (miR156) affects gene expression and promotes root regenerative capacity and nitrogen fixation activity in alfalfa. The results are published in Transgenic Research journal.

In a previous study, the researchers from AAFC generated alfalfa plants that overexpress homologous miR156 (MsmiR156OE) and found three of its SPL target genes. The plants showed improved yield, delayed flowering, and longer roots. In the recent study, they aimed to understand the effect of miR156 on the root system, particularly on nodulation and nitrogen fixation.

Results revealed that MsmiR156 overexpression promotes root regeneration capacity in alfalfa, however with low influence on root biomass during the early stage of root development. It also improves nitrogen fixation activity by upregulating expression of nitrogenase-related genes. Furthermore, expression analysis showed that miR156 affects the genes involved in nodulation, root development, and phytohormone biosynthesis.

Based on the results, miR156 could be used as a tool in genetic improvement of alfalfa and possibly other important crops.

Read the research article in Transgenic Research.