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Mol Cell. 2004 Jun 18;14(6):787-99.

Computational identification of plant microRNAs and their targets, including a stress-induced miRNA.

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Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research and Department of Biology, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 9 Cambridge Center, Cambridge, MA 02142, USA.


MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are approximately 21-nucleotide RNAs, some of which have been shown to play important gene-regulatory roles during plant development. We developed comparative genomic approaches to systematically identify both miRNAs and their targets that are conserved in Arabidopsis thaliana and rice (Oryza sativa). Twenty-three miRNA candidates, representing seven newly identified gene families, were experimentally validated in Arabidopsis, bringing the total number of reported miRNA genes to 92, representing 22 families. Nineteen newly identified target candidates were confirmed by detecting mRNA fragments diagnostic of miRNA-directed cleavage in plants. Overall, plant miRNAs have a strong propensity to target genes controlling development, particularly those of transcription factors and F-box proteins. However, plant miRNAs have conserved regulatory functions extending beyond development, in that they also target superoxide dismutases, laccases, and ATP sulfurylases. The expression of miR395, the sulfurylase-targeting miRNA, increases upon sulfate starvation, showing that miRNAs can be induced by environmental stress.

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