MIR167a transcriptionally regulates ARF6 and ARF8 and mediates drastically plant Pi-starvation response via modulation of various biological processes

  • Xi Chen
  • Zhipeng Liu
  • Guiqing Shi
  • Qianqian Bai
  • Chengjin Guo
  • Kai Xiao
Original Article


Plant miRNA members mediate diverse biological processes through regulating target genes at the posttranscriptional or translational level. In this study, tobacco miRNA NtMIR167a and its targets NtARF6 or NtARF8, two auxin response factor (ARF) encoding genes, were subjected to functional evaluation in mediating the plant growth and Pi-starvation response. NtMIR167a showed induced expression in root tissues upon Pi starvation and whose Pi-deprived upregulated expression was restored gradually upon the Pi normal recovery treatment. Conversely, NtARF6 and NtARF8 displayed inverse expression patterns to this miRNA upon low-Pi stress and the Pi recovery treatment, suggesting their regulation under the miRNA at posttranscriptional level. Trangene analysis revealed that the lines with NtMIR167a overexpression and those with NtARF6 and NtARF8 knockdown exhibited modified phenotypes and Pi-associated traits with respect to wild type under both P normal and Pi starvation conditions, together with altered reactive oxygen species (ROS)-associated parameters. Expression analysis revealed that a set of antioxidant enzyme (AE) genes display reduced transcripts in the Pi-deprived lines overexpressing TaMIR167a and knockdown of NtARF6 and NtARF8, suggesting the AE gene expression impacting on the lowered AE activities of transgenic lines. Transcriptome analysis on the NtMIR167 overexpression line revealed a transcriptional variation on quantities of genes that are categorized into diverse functional groups, suggesting that the miRNA/target module-mediated plant growth and Pi starvation response are associated with modulated transcript profiling initiated by auxin signaling controlled by ARF6 and ARF8. Additionally, NtPT1 and NtPT2, two phosphate transporter (PT) genes of tobacco, exhibited downregulated expression in lines overexpressing NtMIR167a or those with knockdown of NtARF6 and NtARF8; antisense expression of these PT genes resulted in reduced P accumulation and inhibited plant growth under Pi starvation treatment. Our results together confirmed that NtMIR167a/NtARF6(8) modules are crucial in mediating plant growth and Pi starvation adaptation via regulating various biological processes including ROS homeostasis and Pi acquisition.


Tobacco (Nicotiana tabacum L.) MicroRNA Auxin response factor Pi starvation Plant growth Reactive oxygen species (ROS) Trancriptome profiling Pi acquisition 



This work was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (No. 31371618) and Research Plan of Application Base of Hebei (No. 17962901D).

Author contributions

KX designed the research. XC, ZL, GS, QB, and CG conducted the experiment and performed data analysis. KX wrote the paper.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

11240_2017_1371_MOESM1_ESM.doc (2.3 mb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOC 2372 KB)


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Xi Chen
    • 1
    • 2
  • Zhipeng Liu
    • 1
    • 2
  • Guiqing Shi
    • 1
    • 2
  • Qianqian Bai
    • 1
    • 2
  • Chengjin Guo
    • 1
    • 2
  • Kai Xiao
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Agricultural University of HebeiBaodingPeople’s Republic of China
  2. 2.Key Laboratory of Crop Growth Regulation of Hebei ProvinceBaodingPeople’s Republic of China

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