, Volume 3, Issue 2, pp 111-126
Date: 10 Mar 2009

MicroRNA biogenesis and function in higher plants

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MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are endogenous, noncoding, small RNA molecules consisting of 21–24 nucleotides (nts) that regulate target genes at the posttranscriptional level in plants and animals. In plants, miRNAs negatively regulate target mRNAs containing a highly complementary sequence by either mRNA cleavage or translational repression. MiRNAs are processed from single-stranded precursors containing stem-loop structures by a Dicer-like enzyme and are loaded into silencing complexes, where they act on target mRNAs. Although plant miRNAs were first reported in Arabidopsis 10 years later than animal miRNAs, numerous miRNAs have since been identified from various land plants ranging from mosses to flowering plants, and their roles in diverse aspects of plant developmental processes have been characterized. Furthermore, most of the annotated plant miRNAs are evolutionarily conserved in various plants. In particular, recent functional studies using Arabidopsis mutants have contributed a great deal of information towards establishing a framework for understanding miRNA biogenesis and functional roles. Extensive appraisal of miRNA-directed regulation during a wide array of plant development and plant responses to environmental conditions has confirmed the versatile roles of miRNAs as a key component of plant molecular biology.

J.-H. Jung and P. J. Seo contributed equally to this work.