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Trends Plant Sci. 2008 Jul;13(7):343-9. doi: 10.1016/j.tplants.2008.03.009. Epub 2008 May 22.

Evolution of plant microRNAs and their targets.

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Department of Biology and Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences, Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA 16802, USA.


MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are a specialized class of small silencing RNAs that regulate gene expression. They have a limited phylogenetic distribution among eukaryotes, suggestive of at least two independent origins from an ancestral small RNA-producing pathway. A set of 21 abundantly expressed miRNAs are clearly conserved among the angiosperms; many of these function to regulate transcription factors involved in developmental control. Recent experiments have uncovered a much larger set of weakly expressed, less conserved miRNAs in plants, and this group has provided insights into the origins of miRNAs and their targets. These data have provided a coherent set of hypotheses explaining the birth, selection and death of miRNAs in land plants.

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