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Plant Molecular Biology





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Our results show that SPL12 plays a crucial role in regulating nodule development in Medicago sativa L. (alfalfa), and that AGL6 is targeted and downregulated by SPL12. Root architecture in plants is critical because of its role in controlling nutrient cycling, water use efficiency and response to biotic and abiotic stress factors. The small RNA, microRNA156 (miR156), is highly conserved in plants, where it functions by silencing a group of SQUAMOSA-PROMOTER BINDING PROTEIN-LIKE (SPL) transcription factors. We previously showed that transgenic Medicago sativa (alfalfa) plants overexpressing miR156 display increased nodulation, improved nitrogen fixation and enhanced root regenerative capacity during vegetative propagation. In alfalfa, transcripts of eleven SPLs, including SPL12, are targeted for cleavage by miR156. In this study, we characterized the role of SPL12 in root architecture and nodulation by investigating the transcriptomic and phenotypic changes associated with altered transcript levels of SPL12, and by determining SPL12 regulatory targets using SPL12-silencing and -overexpressing alfalfa plants. Phenotypic analyses showed that silencing of SPL12 in alfalfa caused an increase in root regeneration, nodulation, and nitrogen fixation. In addition, AGL6 which encodes AGAMOUS-like MADS box transcription factor, was identified as being directly targeted for silencing by SPL12, based on Next Generation Sequencing-mediated transcriptome analysis and chromatin immunoprecipitation assays. Taken together, our results suggest that SPL12 and AGL6 form a genetic module that regulates root development and nodulation in alfalfa.

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

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