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Plant Mol Biol. 2012 Sep;80(1):37-53. doi: 10.1007/s11103-011-9864-z. Epub 2011 Dec 8.

MicroRNAs in trees.

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Forest Biotechnology Group, Department of Forestry and Environmental Resources, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC 27695, USA.


MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are 20-24 nucleotide long molecules processed from a specific class of RNA polymerase II transcripts that mainly regulate the stability of mRNAs containing a complementary sequence by targeted degradation in plants. Many features of tree biology are regulated by miRNAs affecting development, metabolism, adaptation and evolution. MiRNAs may be modified and harnessed for controlled suppression of specific genes to learn about gene function, or for practical applications through genetic engineering. Modified (artificial) miRNAs act as dominant suppressors and are particularly useful in tree genetics because they bypass the generations of inbreeding needed for fixation of recessive mutations. The purpose of this review is to summarize the current status of information on miRNAs in trees and to guide future studies on the role of miRNAs in the biology of woody perennials and to illustrate their utility in directed genetic modification of trees.

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