Researchers at MIT and Rice University have discovered that microRNAs, an emerging class of non-protein gene regulators thus far only identified in animals, also exist in plants. By extending the known phylogenetic range of miRNAs to plants, this work points to an ancient evolutionary origin for microRNAs. The report is published in the July 1 issue of the scientific journal Genes & Development.
MicroRNAs (miRNAs) compose a class of short, noncoding RNAs, 20-24-nucleotides in length, that have been found in eukaryotic organisms ranging from roundworms, to fruit flies, to humans. The founding members of this class of RNAs are lin-4 and let-7, two small RNAs that are processed from a longer stem-loop structure by the Dicer enzyme, and function to control developmental timing in the roundworm C. elegans. Over 150 other miRNAs have since been found in animals.
Dr. David Bartel and colleagues have discovered that miRNAs are also present in plants, where they, like their animal counterparts, may also regulate gene expression during development.
Heather Cosel | EurekAlert!
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