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Planta

, Volume 236, Issue 4, pp 943–958 | Cite as

Non-coding RNAs in the plant response to abiotic stress

  • Cecilia Contreras-Cubas
  • Miguel Palomar
  • Mario Arteaga-Vázquez
  • José Luis Reyes
  • Alejandra A. CovarrubiasEmail author
Review

Abstract

As sessile organisms, plants have to cope with the ever-changing environment as well as with numerous forms of stress. To react to these external cues, plants have evolved a suite of response mechanisms operating at many different levels, ranging from physiological to molecular processes that provide the organism with a wide phenotypic plasticity, allowing for fine tuning of the reactions to these adverse circumstances. During the past decade, non-coding RNAs (ncRNAs) have emerged as key regulatory molecules, which contribute to a significant portion of the transcriptome in eukaryotes and are involved in the control of transcriptional and post-transcriptional gene regulatory pathways. Although accumulated evidence supports an important role for ncRNAs in plant response and adaptation to abiotic stress, their mechanism(s) of action still remains obscure and a functional characterization of the ncRNA repertoire in plants is still needed. Moreover, common features in the biogenesis of different small ncRNAs, and in some cases, cross talk between different gene regulatory pathways may add to the complexity of these pathways and could play important roles in modulating stress responses. Here we review the various ncRNAs that have been reported to participate in the response to abiotic stress in plants, focusing on their importance in plant adaptation and evolution. Understanding how ncRNAs work may reveal novel mechanisms involved in the plant responses to the environment.

Keywords

Abiotic stress Argonaute proteins (AGO) Dicer-like proteins Small non-coding RNAs (sncRNAs) Water deficit 

Abbreviations

AGO

Argonaute protein

DCL

Dicer-like protein

dsRNA

Double-stranded RNA

dsRBD

dsRNA-binding domain

ncRNA

Non-coding RNA

hcsiRNA

Heterochromatic siRNAs

miRNA

MicroRNA

lncRNA

Long non-coding RNA

sncRNA

Small non-coding RNA

siRNA

Small interfering RNA

tasiRNAs

Trans-acting RNA

TGS

Transcriptional gene silencing

PTGS

Post-transcriptional gene silencing

Notes

Acknowledgments

We apologize to colleagues whose work was omitted due to space constrains. This work was partially supported by DGAPA-UNAM (IN208212 and IN205112). CC-C and MP received PhD fellowships from CONACyT-Mexico.

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Cecilia Contreras-Cubas
    • 1
  • Miguel Palomar
    • 1
  • Mario Arteaga-Vázquez
    • 2
  • José Luis Reyes
    • 1
  • Alejandra A. Covarrubias
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Departamento de Biología Molecular de Plantas, Instituto de BiotecnologíaUniversidad Nacional Autónoma de MéxicoCuernavacaMexico
  2. 2.Instituto de Biotecnología y Ecología AplicadaUniversidad VeracruzanaXalapaMexico

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