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Suresh Kumar

Rakesh Kaundal







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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.


Recurrent occurrence of drought stress in varying intensity has become a common phenomenon in the present era of global climate change, which not only causes severe yield losses but also challenges the cultivation of rice. This raises serious concerns for sustainable food production and global food security. The root of a plant is primarily responsible to perceive drought stress and acquire sufficient water for the survival/optimal growth of the plant under extreme climatic conditions. Earlier studies reported the involvement/important roles of microRNAs (miRNAs) in plants’ responses to environmental/abiotic stresses. A number (738) of miRNAs is known to be expressed in different tissues under varying environmental conditions in rice, but our understanding of the role, mode of action, and target genes of the miRNAs are still elusive. Using contrasting rice [IR-64 (reproductive-stage drought sensitive) and N-22 (drought-tolerant)] cultivars, imposed with terminal (reproductive-stage) drought stress, we demonstrate differential expression of 270 known and 91 novel miRNAs in roots of the contrasting rice cultivars in response to the stress. Among the known miRNAs, osamiR812, osamiR166, osamiR156, osamiR167, and osamiR396 were the most differentially expressed miRNAs between the rice cultivars. In the root of N-22, 18 known and 12 novel miRNAs were observed to be exclusively expressed, while only two known (zero novels) miRNAs were exclusively expressed in the roots of IR-64. The majority of the target gene(s) of the miRNAs were drought-responsive transcription factors playing important roles in flower, grain development, auxin signaling, root development, and phytohormone-crosstalk. The novel miRNAs identified in this study may serve as good candidates for the genetic improvement of rice for terminal drought stress towards developing climate-smart rice for sustainable food production.