Crop Biotech Update

MicroRNA Expression Analysis in Switchgrass under Abiotic Stress

April 4, 2012

East Carolina University scientist Guiling Sun and team investigated the effect of salt and drought stress on the germination, growth, and RNA expression of the biofuel crop switchgrass through microRNA expression analysis. Results showed that salt stress had gradual but significant negative effect on the growth and development of switchgrass. Under salt stress, germination rate decreased from 82% (control) to 36%. On the other hand, drought stress had little effect on the germination rate but had significant effect on growth when the switchgrass was exposed to extreme salinity stress.

Both salt and drought stress caused dose-dependent changes in the expression pattern of microRNAs. However, each microRNA exhibited different reactions to drought stress. MicroRNAs were less responsive to drought than salinity treatment as shown in the levels of expression. Two microRNAs (miR156 and miR162) showed significant changes in expression level under high drought stress. This could imply that miR156 and miR162 may be responsible for the adaption of switchgrass to drought stress and are good candidates for improving switchgrass as a biofuel crop through genetic engineering.

Read the open-access article at