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psRNATarget: A Plant Small RNA Target Analysis Server

Plant endogenous non-coding short small RNAs (20-24 nt), including microRNAs (miRNAs) and a subset of small interfering RNAs (ta-siRNAs), play important role in gene expression regulatory networks (GRNs), for example, many transcription factors and development related genes have been reported as targets of these regulatory small RNAs. Although a number of miRNA target prediction algorithms and programs have been developed, most of them were designed for animal miRNAs which are significantly different from plant miRNAs in the target recognition process. These differences demand the development of separate plant miRNA (and ta-siRNA) target analysis tool(s).

We present psRNATarget, a plant small RNA target analysis server, which features two important analysis functions: 1) reverse complementary matching between miRNA and target transcript using a proven scoring schema, and 2) target site accessibility evaluation by calculating unpaired energy (UPE) required to "open" secondary structure around miRNA’s target site on mRNA. PsRNATarget incorporates recent discoveries in plant miRNA target recognition, e.g. it distinguishes translational and post-transcriptional inhibition, and it reports the number of miRNA/target site pairs that may affect miRNA binding activity to target transcript.

PsRNATarget is designed for high-throughput analysis of next-generation data with an efficient distributed computing back-end pipeline that runs on a Linux cluster. The server front-end integrates three simplified user-friendly interfaces to accept user-submitted or preloaded miRNAs and transcript sequences; and outputs a comprehensive list of miRNA / target pairs along with the online tools for batch downloading, key word searching and results sorting.

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