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Trends Genet. 2002 Apr;18(4):171-3.

MicroRNAs: deviants no longer.

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Dept of Molecular Biology, Wellman 8, Massachusetts General Hospital, 50 Blossom St, Boston, MA 02114, USA.


Almost ten years ago, the Ambros laboratory made the extraordinary discovery that a gene essential for development in Caenorhabditis elegans encoded a 22-nucleotide, untranslated RNA. Further genetic studies in this nematode revealed the existence of a second tiny RNA gene that turned out to be conserved in animals as diverse as flies and humans. Now, the Ambros, Bartel and Tuschl laboratories have proven that those odd RNAs were just the first examples of a large family of RNAs, termed microRNAs (miRNAs). Although untranslated RNA genes, such as transfer RNAs and ribosomal RNAs, perform essential housekeeping roles in all living organisms, growing numbers of other RNAs, some widely conserved across phyla and others limited to certain species, are being uncovered and shown to fulfill specific duties. The discovery of miRNAs establishes a new class of regulatory RNAs and highlights the existence of unexpected RNA genes that, although ancient, are not extinct.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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