Plant and animal microRNAs (miRNAs) are evolutionarily ancient small RNAs, approximately 19-24 nucleotides in length, that are generated by cleavage from larger highly structured precursor molecules. In both plants and animals, miRNAs posttranscriptionally regulate gene expression through interactions with their target mRNAs, and these targets are often genes involved with regulating key developmental events. Despite these similarities, plant and animal miRNAs exert their control in fundamentally different ways. Generally, animal miRNAs repress gene expression by mediating translational attenuation through (multiple) miRNA-binding sites located within the 3' untranslated region of the target gene. In contrast, almost all plant miRNAs regulate their targets by directing mRNA cleavage at single sites in the coding regions. These and other differences suggest that the two systems may have originated independently, possibly as a prerequisite to the development of complex body plans.