Conservation and Divergence in the Meiocyte sRNAomes of Arabidopsis, Soybean, and Cucumber

Meiosis is a critical process for sexual reproduction. During meiosis, genetic information on homologous chromosomes is shuffled through meiotic recombination to produce gametes with novel allelic combinations. Meiosis and recombination are orchestrated by several mechanisms including regulation by small RNAs (sRNAs). Our previous work in Arabidopsis (Arabidopsis thaliana) meiocytes showed that meiocyte-specific sRNAs (ms-sRNAs) have distinct characteristics, including positive association with the coding region of genes that are transcriptionally upregulated during meiosis. Here, we characterized the ms-sRNAs in two important crops, soybean (Glycine max) and cucumber (Cucumis sativus). Ms-sRNAs in soybean have the same features as those in Arabidopsis, suggesting that they may play a conserved role in eudicots. We also investigated the profiles of microRNAs (miRNAs) and phased secondary small interfering RNAs in the meiocytes of all three species. Two conserved miRNAs, miR390 and miR167, are highly abundant in the meiocytes of all three species. In addition, we identified three novel cucumber miRNAs. Intriguingly, our data show that the previously identified phased secondary small interfering RNA pathway involving soybean-specific miR4392 is more abundant in meiocytes. These results showcase the conservation and divergence of ms-sRNAs in flowering plants, and broaden our understanding of sRNA function in crop species.

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