Like all organisms, aphids, plant sap-sucking insects that house a bacterial endosymbiont called Buchnera, are members of a species interaction network. Ecological interactions across such networks can result in phenotypic change in network members mediated by molecular signals, like microRNAs. Here, we interrogated small RNA data from the aphid, Myzus persicae, to determine the source of reads that did not map to the aphid or Buchnera genomes. Our analysis revealed that the pattern was largely explained by reads that mapped to the host plant, Brassica oleracea, and a facultative symbiont, Regiella. To start elucidating the function of plant small RNA in aphid gut, we annotated 213 unique B. oleracea miRNAs; 32/213 were present in aphid gut as mature and star miRNAs. Next, we predicted targets in the B. oleracea and M. persicae genomes for these 32 plant miRNAs. We found that plant targets were enriched for genes associated with transcription, while the distribution of targets in the aphid genome was similar to the functional distribution of all genes in the aphid genome. We discuss the potential of plant miRNAs to regulate aphid gene expression and the mechanisms involved in processing, export and uptake of plant miRNAs by aphids.
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