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MicroRNA profiles in Sorghum exposed to individual drought or heat or their combination

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Sorghum is largely grown for food, fodder and for biofuel production in semi-arid regions where the drought or high temperature or their combination co-occur. Plant microRNAs (miRNAs) are integral to the gene regulatory networks that control almost all biological processes including adaptation to stress conditions. Thus far, plant miRNA profiles under separate drought or heat stresses have been reported but not under combined drought and heat. In this study, we report miRNA profiles in leaves of sorghum exposed to individual drought or heat or their combination. Approximately 29 conserved miRNA families represented by 80 individual miRNAs, 26 families represented by 47 members of less conserved or sorghum-specific miRNA families as well as 8 novel miRNA families have been identified. Of these, 25 miRNAs were found to be differentially regulated in response to stress treatments. The comparative profiling revealed that the miRNA regulation was stronger under heat or combination of heat and drought compared to the drought alone. Furthermore, using degradome sequencing, 48 genes were confirmed as targets for the miRNAs in sorghum. Overall, this study provides a framework for understanding of the miRNA-guided gene regulations under combined stresses.

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The sequenced small RNAs and degradome data were deposited under the accession number GSE157523 and GSE157521, respectively, at the National Center for Biotechnology Information Gene Expression Omnibus (NCBI GEO).



Auxin response factors


Coding sequences


Flowering locus T





NAC transcription factors:

NAM, ATAF1, CUC2 family of transcription factors


Nuclear factor Y transcription factors


Nucleotides; PCF6: Proliferating Cell Factor 6


Reads Per Ten Million


Squamosa promoter binding-like transcription factors


Target plots


Trans-acting short-interfering RNA 3


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PCOR and NG acknowledges the postdoctoral fellowship from the University Grants Commission, India. PS acknowledges the fellowship from Indian Council of Agricultural Research, India under LBSOYSA scheme (No. 1008018) and AS acknowledges the award of Fulbright-Nehru postdoctoral fellowship. We also would like to acknowledge Rohan Avula for his critical inputs.


This work was partly supported by the NSF-IOS award 1849708 and NSF-EPSCoR Track-2 FEC award 1826836 and Stevens Endowed chair to RS. The funding bodies had no role in the design of the study and collection, analysis, and interpretation of data and in writing the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Ramanjulu Sunkar.

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None of the authors have any competing interests.

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Puli, C.O.R., Zheng, Y., Li, YF. et al. MicroRNA profiles in Sorghum exposed to individual drought or heat or their combination. J. Plant Biochem. Biotechnol. 30, 848–861 (2021).

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