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Characterization and cloning of grape circular RNAs identified the cold resistance-related Vv-circATS1

Circular RNAs (circRNAs) are widely distributed and play essential roles in a series of developmental processes, although none have been identified or characterized in grapevine (Vitis vinifera L.). In this study, we characterized the function of grape circRNA and uncovered thousands of putative back-splicing sites by global transcriptome analysis. Our results indicated that several reported circRNA prediction algorithms should be used simultaneously to obtain comprehensive and reliable circRNA predictions in plants. Furthermore, the length of introns flanking grape circRNAs was closely related to exon circularization. Although the longer introns flanking grape circRNAs appeared to circularize more efficiently, a 20-50 nt region seemed large enough to drive grape circRNA biogenesis. In addition, the endogenous introns flanking circularized exon(s) in conjunction with reverse complementary sequences could support the accurate and efficient circularization of various exons in grape, which constitutes a new tool for exploring the functional consequences caused by circRNA expression. Finally, we identified 475 differentially-expressed circRNAs in grape leaves under cold stress. Overexpression of Vv-circATS1, a circRNA derived from glycerol-3-P acyltransferase (ATS1), improved cold tolerance in Arabidopsis (Arabidopsis thaliana), while the linear RNA derived from the same sequence cannot. These results indicate the functional difference between circRNA and linear RNA, and provide new insight into plant abiotic stress resistance.

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