Send to

Choose Destination
RNA. 2013 Sep;19(9):1295-308. doi: 10.1261/rna.039248.113. Epub 2013 Jul 23.

The impact of age, biogenesis, and genomic clustering on Drosophila microRNA evolution.

Author information

Department of Biological Statistics and Computational Biology, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York 14853, USA.


The molecular evolutionary signatures of miRNAs inform our understanding of their emergence, biogenesis, and function. The known signatures of miRNA evolution have derived mostly from the analysis of deeply conserved, canonical loci. In this study, we examine the impact of age, biogenesis pathway, and genomic arrangement on the evolutionary properties of Drosophila miRNAs. Crucial to the accuracy of our results was our curation of high-quality miRNA alignments, which included nearly 150 corrections to ortholog calls and nucleotide sequences of the global 12-way Drosophilid alignments currently available. Using these data, we studied primary sequence conservation, normalized free-energy values, and types of structure-preserving substitutions. We expand upon common miRNA evolutionary patterns that reflect fundamental features of miRNAs that are under functional selection. We observe that melanogaster-subgroup-specific miRNAs, although recently emerged and rapidly evolving, nonetheless exhibit evolutionary signatures that are similar to well-conserved miRNAs and distinct from other structured noncoding RNAs and bulk conserved non-miRNA hairpins. This provides evidence that even young miRNAs may be selected for regulatory activities. More strikingly, we observe that mirtrons and clustered miRNAs both exhibit distinct evolutionary properties relative to solo, well-conserved miRNAs, even after controlling for sequence depth. These studies highlight the previously unappreciated impact of biogenesis strategy and genomic location on the evolutionary dynamics of miRNAs, and affirm that miRNAs do not evolve as a unitary class.


Drosophila; microRNA clusters; microRNA evolution; mirtrons; structure evolution

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for HighWire Icon for PubMed Central
Loading ...
Support Center