Small but powerful: function of microRNAs in plant development

Plant Cell Rep. 2018 Mar;37(3):515-528. doi: 10.1007/s00299-017-2246-5. Epub 2018 Jan 9.


MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are a group of endogenous noncoding small RNAs frequently 21 nucleotides long. miRNAs act as negative regulators of their target genes through sequence-specific mRNA cleavage, translational repression, or chromatin modifications. Alterations of the expression of a miRNA or its targets often result in a variety of morphological and physiological abnormalities, suggesting the strong impact of miRNAs on plant development. Here, we review the recent advances on the functional studies of plant miRNAs. We will summarize the regulatory networks of miRNAs in a series of developmental processes, including meristem development, establishment of lateral organ polarity and boundaries, vegetative and reproductive organ growth, etc. We will also conclude the conserved and species-specific roles of plant miRNAs in evolution and discuss the strategies for further elucidating the functional mechanisms of miRNAs during plant development.

Keywords: Development; Evolution; Plant miRNA; Regulatory network; Target genes.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Flowers / genetics
  • Flowers / growth & development
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental*
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Plant*
  • Meristem / genetics
  • Meristem / growth & development
  • MicroRNAs / genetics*
  • Plant Development / genetics*
  • Plant Roots / genetics
  • Plant Roots / growth & development
  • Plant Shoots / genetics
  • Plant Shoots / growth & development
  • RNA, Plant / genetics*


  • MicroRNAs
  • RNA, Plant