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PLoS One. 2010 Oct 22;5(10):e13558. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0013558.

miRNA-mediated functional changes through co-regulating function related genes.

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School of Life Sciences, Tsinghua University, Beijing, People's Republic of China.



MicroRNAs play important roles in various biological processes involving fairly complex mechanism. Analysis of genome-wide miRNA microarray demonstrate that a single miRNA can regulate hundreds of genes, but the regulative extent on most individual genes is surprisingly mild so that it is difficult to understand how a miRNA provokes detectable functional changes with such mild regulation.


To explore the internal mechanism of miRNA-mediated regulation, we re-analyzed the data collected from genome-wide miRNA microarray with bioinformatics assay, and found that the transfection of miR-181b and miR-34a in Hela and HCT-116 tumor cells regulated large numbers of genes, among which, the genes related to cell growth and cell death demonstrated high Enrichment scores, suggesting that these miRNAs may be important in cell growth and cell death. MiR-181b induced changes in protein expression of most genes that were seemingly related to enhancing cell growth and decreasing cell death, while miR-34a mediated contrary changes of gene expression. Cell growth assays further confirmed this finding. In further study on miR-20b-mediated osteogenesis in hMSCs, miR-20b was found to enhance osteogenesis by activating BMPs/Runx2 signaling pathway in several stages by co-repressing of PPARγ, Bambi and Crim1.


With its multi-target characteristics, miR-181b, miR-34a and miR-20b provoked detectable functional changes by co-regulating functionally-related gene groups or several genes in the same signaling pathway, and thus mild regulation from individual miRNA targeting genes could have contributed to an additive effect. This might also be one of the modes of miRNA-mediated gene regulation.

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