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Suppression of rice miR168 improves yield, flowering time and immunity


MicroRNA168 (miR168) is a key miRNA that targets Argonaute1 (AGO1), a major component of the RNA-induced silencing complex1,2. Previously, we reported that miR168 expression was responsive to infection by Magnaporthe oryzae, the causal agent of rice blast disease3. However, how miR168 regulates immunity to rice blast and whether it affects rice development remains unclear. Here, we report our discovery that the suppression of miR168 by a target mimic (MIM168) not only improves grain yield and shortens flowering time in rice but also enhances immunity to M. oryzae. These results were validated through repeated tests in rice fields in the absence and presence of rice blast pressure. We found that the miR168–AGO1 module regulates miR535 to improve yield by increasing panicle number, miR164 to reduce flowering time, and miR1320 and miR164 to enhance immunity. Our discovery demonstrates that changes in a single miRNA enhance the expression of multiple agronomically important traits.

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Fig. 1: miR168 regulates rice yield and flowering time.
Fig. 2: miR168 regulates rice immunity against M. oryzae.
Fig. 3: miR1320 contributes to miR168-regulated immunity.
Fig. 4: miR535 and miR164 contribute to miR168-regulated development.

Data availability

All data generated or analysed during this study are included in this Article and in its Supplementary Information files. The data are available upon request. Source data are provided with this paper.


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We thank C.-L. Lei (Institute of Crop Science, Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences) for providing IRBLkm-Ts and J.-M. Zhou (Institute of Genetics and Developmental Biology, Chinese Academy of Sciences) for suggestions on writing the manuscript. This work was supported by grants from the Sichuan Applied Fundamental Research Foundation (no. 2020YJ0332) and National Natural Science Foundation of China (nos. U19A2033, 31672090 and 31430072) to W.-M.W. and by grants from the National Institutes of Health (no. GM59962), USDA NIFA (no. 2017-67013-26590) and the Joint BioEnergy Institute funded by the US DOE (no. DE-AC02-05CH11231) to P.C.R. and M.C.

Author information




Yan Li and W.-M.W. conceived the project. H.W., Y.Z., L.-L.Z., J.-H.L., W.-Q.D., Z.-R.Y., S.-Z.Y. and Z.-X.Z. carried out the experiments. X.-P.L. and X.-C.M. performed the transgenic plant generation and analysis. J.-W.Z. and M.P. conducted the field trials. M.C., J.F. and X.-J.W. analysed the data. Yan Li, M.C., P.C.R. and W.-M.W. wrote the paper. X.-W.C., W.-T.L., J.W., M.H., Y.-Y.H., S.-G.L., P.L. and Yi Li discussed the results and commented on the manuscript.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Wen-Ming Wang.

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The authors declare no competing interests.

Additional information

Peer review information Nature Plants thanks Yong-Hwan Lee, Shaoqing Li and Guo-Liang Wang for their contribution to the peer review of this work.

Publisher’s note Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Supplementary information

Supplementary Information

Supplementary figures and methods.

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Supplementary Tables 1–5.

Supplementary Data 1

Statistical source data.

Supplementary Data 2

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Supplementary Data 3

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Supplementary Data 4

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Supplementary Data 5

Statistical source data.

Supplementary Data 6

Statistical source data.

Supplementary Data 7

Statistical source data.

Supplementary Data 8

Statistical source data.

Supplementary Data 9

Unprocessed western blots.

Supplementary Data 10

Unprocessed western blots.

Supplementary Data 11

Unprocessed northern blots.

Source data

Source Data Fig. 1

Statistical source data.

Source Data Fig. 2

Statistical source data.

Source Data Fig. 3

Statistical source data.

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Wang, H., Li, Y., Chern, M. et al. Suppression of rice miR168 improves yield, flowering time and immunity. Nat. Plants 7, 129–136 (2021).

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