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PLoS One. 2011;6(10):e26302. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0026302. Epub 2011 Oct 14.

MicroRNA-mediated positive feedback loop and optimized bistable switch in a cancer network Involving miR-17-92.

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  • 1School of Life Sciences, Lanzhou University, Lanzhou, China.


MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are small, noncoding RNAs that play an important role in many key biological processes, including development, cell differentiation, the cell cycle and apoptosis, as central post-transcriptional regulators of gene expression. Recent studies have shown that miRNAs can act as oncogenes and tumor suppressors depending on the context. The present work focuses on the physiological significance of miRNAs and their role in regulating the switching behavior. We illustrate an abstract model of the Myc/E2F/miR-17-92 network presented by Aguda et al. (2008), which is composed of coupling between the E2F/Myc positive feedback loops and the E2F/Myc/miR-17-92 negative feedback loop. By systematically analyzing the network in close association with plausible experimental parameters, we show that, in the presence of miRNAs, the system bistability emerges from the system, with a bistable switch and a one-way switch presented by Aguda et al. instead of a single one-way switch. Moreover, the miRNAs can optimize the switching process. The model produces a diverse array of response-signal behaviors in response to various potential regulating scenarios. The model predicts that this transition exists, one from cell death or the cancerous phenotype directly to cell quiescence, due to the existence of miRNAs. It was also found that the network involving miR-17-92 exhibits high noise sensitivity due to a positive feedback loop and also maintains resistance to noise from a negative feedback loop.

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