MicroRNAs (miRNAs) represent a newly identified class of non-protein-coding ∼20 nt small RNAs which play important roles in multiple biological processes by degrading targeted mRNAs or repressing mRNA translation. After searching a genomic survey sequence database using homologs and secondary structures, we found 188 maize miRNAs belonging to 29 miRNA families. Of the 188 maize miRNA genes, 28 (15%) were found in at least one EST. A total of 115 potential targets were identified for 26 of the miRNA families based on the fact that miRNAs exhibit perfect or nearly perfect complementarity with their target sequences. A majority of the targets are transcription factors which play important roles in maize development, including leaf, shoot, and root development. Additionally, these maize miRNAs are also involved in other cellular processes, such as signal transduction, stress response, sucrose and cellulose synthesis, and ubiquitin protein degradation pathway. Some of the newly identified miRNA targets may be unique to maize.
- Transcription factor