Conservation and divergence of small RNA pathways and microRNAs in land plants
MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are a central player in post-transcriptional regulation of gene expression and are involved in numerous biological processes in eukaryotes. Knowledge of the origins and divergence of miRNAs paves the way for a better understanding of the complexity of the regulatory networks that they participate in. The biogenesis, degradation, and regulatory activities of miRNAs are relatively better understood, but the evolutionary history of miRNAs still needs more exploration. Inverted duplication of target genes, random hairpin sequences and small transposable elements constitute three main models that explain the origination of miRNA genes (MIR). Both inter-species and intra-species divergence of miRNAs exhibits functional adaptation and adaptation to changing environments in evolution. Here we summarize recent progress in studies on the evolution of MIR and related genes.