Plant miRNA Conservation and Evolution
Plant microRNAs do not only perform important roles in development; they also have a fascinating evolutionary dynamics. Their genes appear to originate at quite a high rate during evolution, but most of them evolve initially in an almost neutral way and hence also get lost quite rapidly. Despite the high birth and death rate, a few miRNA-encoding genes got involved in the control of important target genes and thus have been conserved during evolution. This happened obviously at all times and taxonomic levels during land plant evolution. Consequently, the genomes of extant plant species contain a mix of miRNA-encoding genes of different ages, ranging from very young, often even species-specific loci to genes that had already been established in the stem group of extant land plants more than 400 million years ago. It could well be that the evolutionary dynamics of miRNA-encoding genes contributed substantially to the evolution of developmental plasticity in plants.
Key wordsBirth and death rate microRNA MIRNA gene
We are grateful to Stefan de Folter for his kind invitation to write this chapter. We dedicate this paper to Mirna Gramzow, a cute little girl with a strange given name.
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