BackgroundRoot knot nematodes (RKN) are plant parasitic nematodes causing major yield losses of widely consumed food crops such as rice (Oryza sativa). Because non-coding RNAs, including small interfering RNAs (siRNA), microRNAs (miRNAs) and long non-coding RNAs (lncRNAs), are key regulators of various plant processes, elucidating their regulation during this interaction may lead to new strategies to improve crop protection. In this study, we aimed to identify and characterize rice siRNAs, miRNAs and lncRNAs responsive to early infection with RKN Meloidogyne graminicola (Mg), based on sequencing of small RNA, degradome and total RNA libraries from rice gall tissues compared with uninfected root tissues.ResultsWe found 425 lncRNAs, 3739 siRNAs and 16 miRNAs to be differentially expressed between both tissues, of which a subset was independently validated with RT-qPCR. Functional prediction of the lncRNAs indicates that a large part of their potential target genes code for serine/threonine protein kinases and transcription factors. Differentially expressed siRNAs have a predominant size of 24 nts, suggesting a role in DNA methylation. Differentially expressed miRNAs are generally downregulated and target transcription factors, which show reduced degradation according to the degradome data.ConclusionsTo our knowledge, this work is the first to focus on small and long non-coding RNAs in the interaction between rice and Mg, and provides an overview of rice non-coding RNAs with the potential to be used as a resource for the development of new crop protection strategies.