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Mutat Res. 2011 Sep 1;714(1-2):105-12. doi: 10.1016/j.mrfmmm.2011.05.004. Epub 2011 May 14.

Environmental chemicals and microRNAs.

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Department of Preventive Medicine, Northwestern University, Chicago, IL, USA.


MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are short single-stranded non-coding molecules that function as negative regulators to silence or suppress gene expression. Aberrant miRNA expression has been implicated in a several cellular processes and pathogenic pathways of a number of diseases. Evidence is rapidly growing that miRNA regulation of gene expression may be affected by environmental chemicals. These environmental exposures include those that have frequently been associated with chronic diseases, such as heavy metals, air pollution, bisphenol A, and cigarette smoking. In this article, we review the published data on miRNAs in relation to the exposure to several environmental chemicals, and discuss the potential mechanisms that may link environmental chemicals to miRNA alterations. We further discuss the challenges in environmental-miRNA research and possible future directions. The accumulating evidence linking miRNAs to environmental chemicals, coupled with the unique regulatory role of miRNAs in gene expression, makes miRNAs potential biomarkers for better understanding the mechanisms of environmental diseases.

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