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Title: Pre-meiotic 21-nucleotide reproductive phasiRNAs emerged in seed plants and diversified in flowering plants

Plant small RNAs are important regulatory elements that fine-tune gene expression and maintain genome integrity by silencing transposons. Reproductive organs of monocots produce abundant phased, small interfering RNAs (phasiRNAs). The 21-nt reproductive phasiRNAs triggered by miR2118 are highly enriched in pre-meiotic anthers, and have been found in multiple eudicot species, in contrast with prior reports of monocot specificity. The 24-nt reproductive phasiRNAs are triggered by miR2275, and are highly enriched during meiosis in many angiosperms. Here, we report the widespread presence of the 21-nt reproductive phasiRNA pathway in eudicots including canonical and non-canonical microRNA (miRNA) triggers of this pathway. In eudicots, these 21-nt phasiRNAs are enriched in pre-meiotic stages, a spatiotemporal distribution consistent with that of monocots and suggesting a role in anther development. Although this pathway is apparently absent in well-studied eudicot families including the Brassicaceae, Solanaceae and Fabaceae, our work in eudicots supports an earlier singular finding in spruce, a gymnosperm, indicating that the pathway of 21-nt reproductive phasiRNAs emerged in seed plants and was lost in some lineages.

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Nature Communications
Nature Publishing Group
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National Science Foundation
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