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      MicroRNA: Biogenesis, Function and Role in Cancer

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          MicroRNAs are small, highly conserved non-coding RNA molecules involved in the regulation of gene expression. MicroRNAs are transcribed by RNA polymerases II and III, generating precursors that undergo a series of cleavage events to form mature microRNA. The conventional biogenesis pathway consists of two cleavage events, one nuclear and one cytoplasmic. However, alternative biogenesis pathways exist that differ in the number of cleavage events and enzymes responsible. How microRNA precursors are sorted to the different pathways is unclear but appears to be determined by the site of origin of the microRNA, its sequence and thermodynamic stability. The regulatory functions of microRNAs are accomplished through the RNA-induced silencing complex (RISC). MicroRNA assembles into RISC, activating the complex to target messenger RNA (mRNA) specified by the microRNA. Various RISC assembly models have been proposed and research continues to explore the mechanism(s) of RISC loading and activation. The degree and nature of the complementarity between the microRNA and target determine the gene silencing mechanism, slicer-dependent mRNA degradation or slicer-independent translation inhibition. Recent evidence indicates that P-bodies are essential for microRNA-mediated gene silencing and that RISC assembly and silencing occurs primarily within P-bodies. The P-body model outlines microRNA sorting and shuttling between specialized P-body compartments that house enzymes required for slicer –dependent and –independent silencing, addressing the reversibility of these silencing mechanisms. Detailed knowledge of the microRNA pathways is essential for understanding their physiological role and the implications associated with dysfunction and dysregulation.

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          Most cited references 280

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          Prediction of mammalian microRNA targets.

          MicroRNAs (miRNAs) can play important gene regulatory roles in nematodes, insects, and plants by basepairing to mRNAs to specify posttranscriptional repression of these messages. However, the mRNAs regulated by vertebrate miRNAs are all unknown. Here we predict more than 400 regulatory target genes for the conserved vertebrate miRNAs by identifying mRNAs with conserved pairing to the 5' region of the miRNA and evaluating the number and quality of these complementary sites. Rigorous tests using shuffled miRNA controls supported a majority of these predictions, with the fraction of false positives estimated at 31% for targets identified in human, mouse, and rat and 22% for targets identified in pufferfish as well as mammals. Eleven predicted targets (out of 15 tested) were supported experimentally using a HeLa cell reporter system. The predicted regulatory targets of mammalian miRNAs were enriched for genes involved in transcriptional regulation but also encompassed an unexpectedly broad range of other functions.
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            Posttranscriptional regulation of the heterochronic gene lin-14 by lin-4 mediates temporal pattern formation in C. elegans.

            During C. elegans development, the temporal pattern of many cell lineages is specified by graded activity of the heterochronic gene Lin-14. Here we demonstrate that a temporal gradient in Lin-14 protein is generated posttranscriptionally by multiple elements in the lin-14 3'UTR that are regulated by the heterochronic gene Lin-4. The lin-14 3'UTR is both necessary and sufficient to confer lin-4-mediated posttranscriptional temporal regulation. The function of the lin-14 3'UTR is conserved between C. elegans and C. briggsae. Among the conserved sequences are seven elements that are each complementary to the lin-4 RNAs. A reporter gene bearing three of these elements shows partial temporal gradient activity. These data suggest a molecular mechanism for Lin-14p temporal gradient formation: the lin-4 RNAs base pair to sites in the lin-14 3'UTR to form multiple RNA duplexes that down-regulate lin-14 translation.
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              An abundant class of tiny RNAs with probable regulatory roles in Caenorhabditis elegans.

              Two small temporal RNAs (stRNAs), lin-4 and let-7, control developmental timing in Caenorhabditis elegans. We find that these two regulatory RNAs are members of a large class of 21- to 24-nucleotide noncoding RNAs, called microRNAs (miRNAs). We report on 55 previously unknown miRNAs in C. elegans. The miRNAs have diverse expression patterns during development: a let-7 paralog is temporally coexpressed with let-7; miRNAs encoded in a single genomic cluster are coexpressed during embryogenesis; and still other miRNAs are expressed constitutively throughout development. Potential orthologs of several of these miRNA genes were identified in Drosophila and human genomes. The abundance of these tiny RNAs, their expression patterns, and their evolutionary conservation imply that, as a class, miRNAs have broad regulatory functions in animals.

                Author and article information

                Curr Genomics
                Current Genomics
                Bentham Science Publishers Ltd
                November 2010
                : 11
                : 7
                : 537-561
                Department of Physiology & Biophysics, Faculty of Medicine, Dalhousie University, 5850 College Street, Sir Charles Tupper Medical Building, Halifax, Nova Scotia, B3H 1X5, Canada
                Author notes
                [* ]Address correspondence to this author at the Department of Physiology & Biophysics, Faculty of Medicine, Dalhousie University, 5850 College Street, Sir Charles Tupper Medical Building, Halifax, Nova Scotia, B3H 1X5, Canada; Tel: (902) 494-1579; (902) 494-2769; Fax: (902) 494-1685; E-mail: prmurphy@ 123456dal.ca
                ©2010 Bentham Science Publishers Ltd

                This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License ( http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5/), which permits unrestrictive use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.



                rna interference (rnai), post-transcriptional gene regulation, microrna, cancer.


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