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Control of leaf morphogenesis by microRNAs


Plants with altered microRNA metabolism have pleiotropic developmental defects, but direct evidence for microRNAs regulating specific aspects of plant morphogenesis has been lacking. In a genetic screen, we identified the JAW locus, which produces a microRNA that can guide messenger RNA cleavage of several TCP genes controlling leaf development. MicroRNA-guided cleavage of TCP4 mRNA is necessary to prevent aberrant activity of the TCP4 gene expressed from its native promoter. In addition, overexpression of wild-type and microRNA-resistant TCP variants demonstrates that mRNA cleavage is largely sufficient to restrict TCP function to its normal domain of activity. TCP genes with microRNA target sequences are found in a wide range of species, indicating that microRNA-mediated control of leaf morphogenesis is conserved in plants with very different leaf forms.

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Figure 1: jaw-D mutations and effect of jaw-D on TCP genes.
Figure 2: JAW encodes a microRNA.
Figure 3: miR-JAW and miR159 expression.
Figure 4: Identification of miRNA-guided cleavage products.
Figure 5: Expression pattern of TCP4 mRNA.
Figure 6: Effects of miRNA-resistant transgenes and trans-complementation of jaw-1D.


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We thank I. Puga-Gonzalez for assistance and V. Ambros, S. Balasubramanian, J. Chory, M.-C. Kim, J. Lohmann, Y. Kobayashi and J. Spatafora for advice and discussion. This work was supported by fellowships from CONICET and Human Frontier Science Program Organization to J.F.P., from Life Sciences Research Foundation/US Department of Energy to X.W.; by grants from NSF and NIH to J.C.C. and NIH to D.W.; and by the Max Planck Society. D.W. is a Director of the Max Planck Institute.

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Correspondence to James C. Carrington or Detlef Weigel.

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Palatnik, J., Allen, E., Wu, X. et al. Control of leaf morphogenesis by microRNAs. Nature 425, 257–263 (2003).

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