The development of root systems may be strongly affected by the symbiotic interactions that plants establish with soil organisms. Legumes are able to develop symbiotic relationships with both rhizobial bacteria and arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi leading to the formation of nitrogen-fixing nodules and mycorrhizal arbuscules, respectively. Both of these symbiotic interactions involve complex cellular reprogramming and profound morphological and physiological changes in specific root cells. In addition, the repression of pathogenic defence responses seems to be required for successful symbiotic interactions. Apart from typical regulatory genes, such as transcription factors, microRNAs (miRNAs) are emerging as riboregulators that control gene networks in eukaryotic cells through interactions with specific target mRNAs. In recent years, the availability of deep-sequencing technologies and the development of in silico approaches have allowed for the identification of large sets of miRNAs and their targets in legumes. A number of conserved and legume-specific miRNAs were found to be associated with symbiotic interactions as shown by their expression patterns or actions on symbiosis-related targets. In this review, we combine data from recent literature and genomic and deep-sequencing data on miRNAs controlling nodule development or restricting defence reactions to address the diversity and specificity of miRNA-dependent regulation in legume root symbiosis. Phylogenetic analysis of miRNA isoforms and their potential targets suggests a role for miRNAs in the repression of plant defence during symbiosis and revealed the evolution of miRNA-dependent regulation in legumes to allow for the modification of root cell specification, such as the formation of mycorrhized roots and nitrogen-fixing nodules.


View Full Text