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Front Genet. 2014 Feb 26;5:41. doi: 10.3389/fgene.2014.00041. eCollection 2014.

Brain-expressed 3'UTR extensions strengthen miRNA cross-talk between ion channel/transporter encoding mRNAs.

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Department of Physiology, Anatomy and Genetics, University of Oxford Oxford, UK ; Section on Neuropathology, Clinical Brain Disorders Branch, Genes, Cognition and Psychosis Program, IRP, NIMH, National Institutes of Health Bethesda, MD, USA.
Department of Physiology, Anatomy and Genetics, University of Oxford Oxford, UK ; MRC Functional Genomics Unit, Department of Physiology, Anatomy and Genetics, University of Oxford Oxford, UK.


Why protein-coding genes express transcripts with longer 3'untranslated regions (3'UTRs) in the brain rather than in other tissues remains poorly understood. Given the established role of 3'UTRs in post-transcriptional regulation of transcript abundance and their recently highlighted contributions to miRNA-mediated cross-talk between mRNAs, we hypothesized that 3'UTR lengthening enhances coordinated expression between functionally-related genes in the brain. To test this hypothesis, we annotated 3'UTRs of human brain-expressed genes and found that transcripts encoding ion channels or transporters are specifically enriched among those genes expressing their longest 3'UTR extension in this tissue. These 3'UTR extensions have high density of response elements predicted for those miRNAs that are specifically expressed in the human frontal cortex (FC). Importantly, these miRNA response elements are more frequently shared among ion channel/transporter-encoding mRNAs than expected by chance. This indicates that miRNA-mediated cross-talk accounts, at least in part, for the observed coordinated expression of ion channel/transporter genes in the adult human brain. We conclude that extension of these genes' 3'UTRs enhances the miRNA-mediated cross-talk among their transcripts which post-transcriptionally regulates their mRNAs' relative levels.


3′ UTR; 3′untranslated region; brain; competitive endogenous RNAs; gene expression; ion channels; miRNA; transporters

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