MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are a class of small non-coding RNAs that repress gene expression. In plants, the RNase III enzyme Dicer-like (DCL1) processes primary miRNAs (pri-miRNAs) into miRNAs. Here, we show that SMALL1 (SMA1), a homolog of the DEAD-box pre-mRNA splicing factor Prp28, plays essential roles in miRNA biogenesis in Arabidopsis. A hypomorphic sma1-1 mutation causes growth defects and reduces miRNA accumulation correlated with increased target transcript levels. SMA1 interacts with the DCL1 complex and positively influences pri-miRNA processing. Moreover, SMA1 binds the promoter region of genes encoding pri-miRNAs (MIRs) and is required for MIR transcription. Furthermore, SMA1 also enhances the abundance of the DCL1 protein levels through promoting the splicing of the DCL1 pre-mRNAs. Collectively, our data provide new insights into the function of SMA1/Prp28 in regulating miRNA abundance in plants.
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