Long noncoding miRNA gene represses wheat β-diketone waxes.Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2017 04 11; 114(15):E3149-E3158.PN
The cuticle of terrestrial plants functions as a protective barrier against many biotic and abiotic stresses. In wheat and other Triticeae, β-diketone waxes are major components of the epicuticular layer leading to the bluish-white glaucous trait in reproductive-age plants. Glaucousness in durum wheat is controlled by a metabolic gene cluster at the WAX1 (W1) locus and a dominant suppressor INHIBITOR of WAX1 (Iw1) on chromosome 2B. The wheat D subgenome from progenitor Aegilops tauschii contains W2 and Iw2 paralogs on chromosome 2D. Here we identify the Iw1 gene from durum wheat and demonstrate the unique regulatory mechanism by which Iw1 acts to suppress a carboxylesterase-like protein gene, W1-COE, within the W1 multigene locus. Iw1 is a long noncoding RNA (lncRNA) containing an inverted repeat (IR) with >80% identity to W1-COE The Iw1 transcript forms a miRNA precursor-like long hairpin producing a 21-nt predominant miRNA, miRW1, and smaller numbers of related sRNAs associated with the nonglaucous phenotype. When Iw1 was introduced into glaucous bread wheat, miRW1 accumulated, W1-COE and its paralog W2-COE were down-regulated, and the phenotype was nonglaucous and β-diketone-depleted. The IR region of Iw1 has >94% identity to an IR region on chromosome 2 in Ae. tauschii that also produces miRW1 and lies within the marker-based location of Iw2 We propose the Iw loci arose from an inverted duplication of W1-COE and/or W2-COE in ancestral wheat to form evolutionarily young miRNA genes that act to repress the glaucous trait.