In their study, a total of 162 known miRNAs distributed across 33 families were identified, of which 20 were differentially expressed. In addition, 53 miRNA candidates were identified, of which 10 were differentially expressed in the IFC and CFC ovaries. Degradome analysis predicted a total of 113 and 11 target genes for the known and novel miRNAs, respectively. Moreover, 24 (60%) target genes of the differentially expressed known miRNAs were found to code transcription factors, including auxin response factor (ARF), TB1-CYC-PCFs (TCP), APETALA2 (AP2), growth regulating factor (GRF), MYB, NAC, and NF-YA, all of which have been shown to play a role in carpel fusion development. Correlation analysis of these differentially expressed known miRNAs and their targets with phytohormone signals revealed significant correlations with at least one phytohormone signal, the main regulator of carpel fusion development.
These results suggest that incomplete carpel fusion is partly the result of differential expression of certain miRNAs and their targets. Overall, these findings improve our knowledge of the effect of miRNA regulation on target expression and provide a useful resource for further analysis of the interactions between miRNAs, target genes and phytohormones during carpel fusion development in maize.