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Curr Biol. 2010 Jul 27;20(14):1321-5. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2010.05.062. Epub 2010 Jun 24.

Loss of individual microRNAs causes mutant phenotypes in sensitized genetic backgrounds in C. elegans.

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Department of Biological Sciences, Marquette University, Milwaukee, WI 53201, USA.


MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are small, noncoding RNAs that regulate the translation and/or stability of their mRNA targets. Previous work showed that for most miRNA genes of C. elegans, single-gene knockouts did not result in detectable mutant phenotypes. This may be due, in part, to functional redundancy between miRNAs. However, in most cases, worms carrying deletions of all members of a miRNA family do not display strong mutant phenotypes. They may function together with unrelated miRNAs or with non-miRNA genes in regulatory networks, possibly to ensure the robustness of developmental mechanisms. To test this, we examined worms lacking individual miRNAs in genetically sensitized backgrounds. These include genetic backgrounds with reduced processing and activity of all miRNAs or with reduced activity of a wide array of regulatory pathways. With these two approaches, we identified mutant phenotypes for 25 out of 31 miRNAs included in this analysis. Our findings describe biological roles for individual miRNAs and suggest that the use of sensitized genetic backgrounds provides an efficient approach for miRNA functional analysis.

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