Plant Molecular Biology

, Volume 83, Issue 1–2, pp 59–75 | Cite as

MicroRNA-mediated gene regulation: potential applications for plant genetic engineering

  • Man Zhou
  • Hong Luo


Food security is one of the most important issues challenging the world today. Any strategies to solve this problem must include increasing crop yields and quality. MicroRNA-based genetic modification technology (miRNA-based GM tech) can be one of the most promising solutions that contribute to agricultural productivity directly by developing superior crop cultivars with enhanced biotic and abiotic stress tolerance and increased biomass yields. Indirectly, the technology may increase usage of marginal soils and decrease pesticide use, among other benefits. This review highlights the most recent progress of transgenic studies utilizing various miRNAs and their targets for plant trait modifications, and analyzes the potential of miRNA-mediated gene regulation for use in crop improvement. Strategies for manipulating miRNAs and their targets in transgenic plants including constitutive, stress-induced, or tissue-specific expression of miRNAs or their targets, RNA interference, expressing miRNA-resistant target genes, artificial target mimic and artificial miRNAs were discussed. We also discussed potential risks of utilizing miRNA-based GM tech. In general, miRNAs and their targets not only provide an invaluable source of novel transgenes, but also inspire the development of several new GM strategies, allowing advances in breeding novel crop cultivars with agronomically useful characteristics.


Genetically modified plants Food security MicroRNAs Environmental stress tolerance Biomass yields 



We thank Dr. Emerson Shipe for critically reading the manuscript. This work was supported by Biotechnology Risk Assessment Grant Program competitive grant no. 2007-33522-18489 and no. 2010-33522-21656 from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture as well as the USDA grant CSREES SC-1700315 and SC-1700450. Technical Contribution No. 6123 of the Clemson University Experiment Station.


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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Genetics and BiochemistryClemson UniversityClemsonUSA

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