Callus formation and adventitious shoot differentiation could be observed on the cut surface of completely decapitated tomato plants. We propose that this process can be used as a model system to investigate the mechanisms that regulate indirect regeneration of higher plants without the addition of exogenous hormones. This study analyzed the patterns of trans-zeatin and miRNA expression during in vivo regeneration of tomato. Analysis of trans-zeatin revealed that the hormone cytokinin played an important role in in vivo regeneration of tomato. Among 183 miRNAs and 1168 predicted target genes sequences identified, 93 miRNAs and 505 potential targets were selected based on differential expression levels for further characterization. Expression patterns of six miRNAs, including sly-miR166, sly-miR167, sly-miR396, sly-miR397, novel 156, and novel 128, were further validated by qRT-PCR. We speculate that sly-miR156, sly-miR160, sly-miR166, and sly-miR397 play major roles in callus formation of tomato during in vivo regeneration by regulating cytokinin, IAA, and laccase levels. Overall, our microRNA sequence and target analyses of callus formation during in vivo regeneration of tomato provide novel insights into the regulation of regeneration in higher plants.
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