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Minerva Gastroenterol Dietol. 2013 Jun;59(2):187-203.

MicroRNAs and liver function.

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  • 1Department of Gastroenterology, Graduate School of Medicine, University of Tokyo, Tokyo, Japan -


MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are small, noncoding RNA molecules that regulate gene expression post-transcriptionally through complementary base pairing with thousands of messenger RNAs. Although the target genes and precise biological functions of individual miRNAs remain largely unknown, miRNAs are speculated to play important roles in diverse biological processes in both normal and pathological states. The liver is a vital organ that plays major roles in a number of physiological functions. Recent advances in the study of liver miRNAs using gene-modified mice or in vivo nucleic acid delivery to overexpress specific miRNAs or inhibit miRNA functions have revealed the crucial biological roles of individual miRNAs in physiologically essential liver functions in vivo. Because miRNA-based strategies are being applied to clinical therapeutics, the importance of precise knowledge of miRNA functions cannot be underestimated, not only from a scientific point of view, but also from a clinical perspective to make the most of such drugs and avoid unexpected harmful effects. The aims of this review are to describe current knowledge regarding both known and as-yet-undiscovered molecular aspects of the biological roles of miRNAs in the liver, with a special emphasis on lipid, glucose, drug, and iron metabolism as vital functions of the liver as well as important therapeutic targets.

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