Trans-species microRNA loci in the parasitic plant Cuscuta campestris have a U6-like snRNA promoter

Collin Hudzik, Sean Maguire, Shengxi Guan, Jeremy Held, Michael J. Axtell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Small regulatory RNAs can move between organisms and regulate gene expression in the recipient. Whether the trans-species small RNAs being exported are distinguished from the normal endogenous small RNAs of the source organism is not known. The parasitic plant Cuscuta campestris (dodder) produces many microRNAs that specifically accumulate at the host–parasite interface, several of which have trans-species activity. We found that induction of C. campestris interface-induced microRNAs is similar regardless of host species and occurs in C. campestris haustoria produced in the absence of any host. The loci-encoding C. campestris interface-induced microRNAs are distinguished by a common cis-regulatory element. This element is identical to a conserved upstream sequence element (USE) used by plant small nuclear RNA loci. The properties of the interface-induced microRNA primary transcripts strongly suggest that they are produced via U6-like transcription by RNA polymerase III. The USE promotes accumulation of interface-induced miRNAs (IIMs) in a heterologous system. This promoter element distinguishes C. campestris IIM loci from other plant small RNAs. Our data suggest that C. campestris IIMs are produced in a manner distinct from canonical miRNAs. All confirmed C. campestris microRNAs with documented trans-species activity are interface-induced and possess these features. We speculate that RNA polymerase III transcription of IIMs may allow these miRNAs to be exported to hosts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1834-1847
Number of pages14
JournalPlant Cell
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Plant Science

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