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Swiss Med Wkly. 2009 Aug 22;139(33-34):466-72. doi: smw-12794.

MicroRNAs: critical mediators of differentiation, development and disease.

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Department of Urology, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center, Keck School of Medicine, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA 90033, USA.


MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are small non-coding RNAs that are expressed in higher eukaryoates and have even been found in viral genomes. They usually act as endogenous repressors of target genes by either inhibiting translation, causing mRNA degradation, or by a combination of both mechanisms. More than 850 mature miRNA sequences have been identified in humans, and although this accounts for less than 2% of human genes, it is predicted that 30% of mRNAs are targeted by miRNAs. miRNAs play critical roles in most cellular processes including development, differentiation, and the homeostasis of both a cell and an organism. Moreover, many disease states, including cancer, occur or are sustained by miRNA dysregulation. In this article, the latest reports of miRNA involvement and aberrant expression in human disease are reviewed, with an emphasis on cancer.

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