Vidushi Mahajan1, Anuj Mahajan2, Sandeep Singh Pagoch1, Yashbir S Bedi1, Sumit G Gandhi1
1Plant Biotechnology Division, Indian Institute of Integrative Medicine (IIIM-CSIR), Canal Road, Jammu – 180 001, India.
2School Of Computer Science Engineering, Shri Mata Vaishno Devi University, J&K – 182320, India.


Plant secondary metabolites are a large group of phytochemicals which are not directly involved in the growth, development and reproduction processes. These chemicals presumably play role in the interaction of plants with their environment. Some of them protect the plant against pest infestation, grazing damage, UV radiation, or attract pollinating insects. These phytochemicals exhibit immense diversity, with nearly 100,000 such compounds already isolated. Secondary metabolites are exploited for human use in the form of flavoring agents, fragrances, insecticides, dyes, drugs etc. Metabolic engineering may further pave a way for generating novel phytochemicals or for producing desired combinations of such chemicals. One of the ways to tinker with biosynthetic pathway is through modulating miRNA levels. microRNAs, usually 21-24 nucleotide in length, are a class of non-coding RNAs, that play a crucial role in regulation of gene expression in most eukaryotes. In plants, microRNAs are known to control processes such as development, signal transduction, response to environmental stress, pathogen invasion and some of them regulate their own biogenesis as well. Biochemically, mature miRNA function by targeting complementary regions of mRNA transcripts leading to either cleavage of target mRNA or translational repression, based on the degree of sequence complementarily. Here, using in silico analysis we have predicted targets of known plant microRNAs in genes encoding enzymes of plant secondary metabolite biosynthetic pathways. 3070 miRNA sequences from 43 plant species were used for predicting targets in 2070 mRNA sequences mapped to 353 enzymatic steps of 19 major plant secondary metabolite pathways. Customized excel macros and java-scripts were written to automate portions of the analysis. Present poster summarizes interesting findings of this work. For instance, as per our predictions, certain microRNAs appear to target more then 80% of genes of specific secondary metabolite pathways, thus assuming a central role in controlling the pathway. These predictions may be useful for devising strategies to rationally tinker with the plant secondary metabolite biosynthesis.  Read More ..

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