Current research has shown that microRNAs (miRNAs) play vital roles in plant response to stress caused by heavy metals such as aluminum, arsenic, cadmium (Cd), and mercury.

Cd has become one of the most hazardous pollutants in the environment. Maize can be a potential model to study phytoremediation of Cd-contaminated soil owing to its large biomass production. However, little is known about miRNAs as a response to Cd stress in maize.




To investigate the role of miRNAs in response to Cd stress, roots of seedlings of the inbred maize lines B73 and Mo17 were collected and treated with 200 mg/L CdCl2·2.5 H2O over different exposure times. Enzyme activities of superoxide dismutase and peroxidase were measured to confirm Cd stress. The expression of six candidate miRNAs and their targets were validated using quantitative real-time PCR (qRT-PCR) technology. In addition, the expression of Zma-miR171b was assessed using in situ hybridization.




Our results showed that miRNAs and their respective target genes were differentially expressed in maize seedling roots exposed to Cd stress. This research produced new insights into the molecular mechanism of miRNAs responsive to Cd stress in plants and sheds light on the latent roles of miRNAs in plants exposed to heavy metal stresses.