Evolution of plant microRNAs and their targets

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


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.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Evolution, Molecular*
  • MicroRNAs / classification
  • MicroRNAs / genetics*
  • Models, Genetic
  • Phylogeny
  • RNA, Plant / classification
  • RNA, Plant / genetics*


  • MicroRNAs
  • RNA, Plant