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      The role of incoherent microRNA-mediated feedforward loops in noise buffering

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          Abstract

          MicroRNAs are endogenous non-coding RNAs which negatively regulate the expression of protein-coding genes in plants and animals. They are known to play an important role in several biological processes and, together with transcription factors, form a complex and highly interconnected regulatory network. Looking at the structure of this network it is possible to recognize a few overrepresented motifs which are expected to perform important elementary regulatory functions. Among them a special role is played by the microRNA-mediated feedforward loop in which a master transcription factor regulates a microRNA and, together with it, a set of target genes. In this paper we show analytically and through simulations that the incoherent version of this motif can couple the fine-tuning of a target protein level with an efficient noise control, thus conferring precision and stability to the overall gene expression program, especially in the presence of fluctuations in upstream regulators. Among the other results, a nontrivial prediction of our model is that the optimal attenuation of fluctuations coincides with a modest repression of the target expression. This feature is coherent with the expected fine-tuning function and in agreement with experimental observations of the actual impact of a wide class of microRNAs on the protein output of their targets. Finally we describe the impact on noise-buffering efficiency of the cross-talk between microRNA targets that can naturally arise if the microRNA-mediated circuit is not considered as isolated, but embedded in a larger network of regulations.

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          Most cited references 65

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          MicroRNAs: genomics, biogenesis, mechanism, and function.

           David Bartel (2004)
          MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are endogenous approximately 22 nt RNAs that can play important regulatory roles in animals and plants by targeting mRNAs for cleavage or translational repression. Although they escaped notice until relatively recently, miRNAs comprise one of the more abundant classes of gene regulatory molecules in multicellular organisms and likely influence the output of many protein-coding genes.
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            MicroRNAs: target recognition and regulatory functions.

             David Bartel (2009)
            MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are endogenous approximately 23 nt RNAs that play important gene-regulatory roles in animals and plants by pairing to the mRNAs of protein-coding genes to direct their posttranscriptional repression. This review outlines the current understanding of miRNA target recognition in animals and discusses the widespread impact of miRNAs on both the expression and evolution of protein-coding genes.
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              The functions of animal microRNAs.

               Victor Ambros (2004)
              MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are small RNAs that regulate the expression of complementary messenger RNAs. Hundreds of miRNA genes have been found in diverse animals, and many of these are phylogenetically conserved. With miRNA roles identified in developmental timing, cell death, cell proliferation, haematopoiesis and patterning of the nervous system, evidence is mounting that animal miRNAs are more numerous, and their regulatory impact more pervasive, than was previously suspected.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                10.1371/journal.pcbi.1001101
                1004.0336

                Quantitative & Systems biology, Molecular biology

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