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Bioessays. 2006 May;28(5):449-52.

The evolving role of microRNAs in animal gene expression.

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Department of Biology, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, California 92093-0349, USA.


MicroRNAs (miRNAs) constitute an abundant family of 22-nucleotide RNAs that base-pair to target mRNAs and typically inhibit their expression. To assess the global impact of animal miRNAs on gene regulation, the expression of predicted targets and their cognate miRNAs was extensively analyzed in mammals and Drosophila. In general, targets are co-expressed at relatively low or undetectable levels in the same tissues as the miRNAs predicted to regulate them. Additionally, genes that are highly co-expressed with miRNAs usually lack target sites. The authors conclude that many animal genes are under evolutionary pressure to maintain or avoid complementary sites to miRNAs. Thus, the miRNA pathway broadly contributes to the complex gene regulatory networks that shape animal tissue development and identity.

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