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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Identification and characterization of maize microRNAs involved in the very early stage of seed germination

Liwen Wang, Huaihua Liu, Detao Li and Huabang Chen*

Author affiliations

State Key Laboratory of Crop Biology, Shandong Agricultural University, Taian, Shandong 271018, PR China

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Citation and License

BMC Genomics 2011, 12:154  doi:10.1186/1471-2164-12-154

Published: 18 March 2011



MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are a new class of endogenous small RNAs that play essential regulatory roles in plant growth, development and stress response. Extensive studies of miRNAs have been performed in model plants such as rice, Arabidopsis thaliana and other plants. However, the number of miRNAs discovered in maize is relatively low and little is known about miRNAs involved in the very early stage during seed germination.


In this study, a small RNA library from maize seed 24 hours after imbibition was sequenced by the Solexa technology. A total of 11,338,273 reads were obtained. 1,047,447 total reads representing 431 unique sRNAs matched to known maize miRNAs. Further analysis confirmed the authenticity of 115 known miRNAs belonging to 24 miRNA families and the discovery of 167 novel miRNAs in maize. Both the known and the novel miRNAs were confirmed by sequencing of a second small RNA library constructed the same way as the one used in the first sequencing. We also found 10 miRNAs that had not been reported in maize, but had been reported in other plant species. All novel sequences had not been earlier described in other plant species. In addition, seven miRNA* sequences were also obtained. Putative targets for 106 novel miRNAs were successfully predicted. Our results indicated that miRNA-mediated gene expression regulation is present in maize imbibed seed.


This study led to the confirmation of the authenticity of 115 known miRNAs and the discovery of 167 novel miRNAs in maize. Identification of novel miRNAs resulted in significant enrichment of the repertoire of maize miRNAs and provided insights into miRNA regulation of genes expressed in imbibed seed.