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RNA. 2014 Jan;20(1):76-87. doi: 10.1261/rna.041814.113. Epub 2013 Nov 13.

Biogenesis of intronic miRNAs located in clusters by independent transcription and alternative splicing.


miRNAs are generally classified as "intergenic" or "intronic" based upon their genomic location. Intergenic miRNAs are known to be transcribed as independent transcription units, while intronic miRNAs are believed to be processed from the introns of their hosting transcription units and hence share common regulatory mechanisms and expression patterns with its host gene. Recent reports in the literature suggest that some intronic miRNAs, which do not show concordance in expression with their respective host genes, might be transcribed and regulated as independent transcription units. However, there is no direct evidence for the existence of independently transcribed intronic miRNA in humans to date. We have characterized the full-length primary transcripts (pri-miRNAs) of three human intronic miRNAs-miR 106b, miR 93, and miR 24-1-by RNA ligase-mediated RACE and show that human intronic miRNA can indeed be transcribed as independent transcription units. Also, clustered miRNAs are generally believed to arise from a common primary transcript and are expected to have similar expression profiles. However, we have identified several novel alternatively spliced transcripts by RT-PCR, each of which harbors a single pre-miRNA from a cluster of closely located intronic miRNAs. We show that these transcripts represent unique pri-miRNAs for each of these clustered miRNAs. We also report the identification of conserved splice acceptor signals which are responsible for maturation of these novel splice variants. Our results suggest that alternative splicing might play a role in uncoupling the expression of clustered miRNAs from each other, which otherwise are generally believed to be co-transcribed and co-expressed.


alternative splicing; clustered miRNA; intronic miRNA; miRNA biogenesis; miRs 106b–93–25; miRs 23b–27b–24-1

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