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Nat Struct Mol Biol. 2014 Sep;21(9):825-32. doi: 10.1038/nsmb.2862. Epub 2014 Aug 3.

Regulation of microRNA-mediated gene silencing by microRNA precursors.

Author information

1] Department of Pediatrics, Stanford University, Stanford, California, USA. [2] Department of Genetics, Stanford University, Stanford, California, USA.


Processing of microRNAs (miRNAs) from their precursors to their biologically active mature forms is regulated during development and cancer. We show that mouse pri- or pre-miR-151 can bind to and compete with mature miR-151-5p and miR-151-3p for binding sites contained within the complementary regions of the E2f6 mRNA 3' untranslated region (UTR). E2f6 mRNA levels were directly regulated by pri- or pre-miR-151. Conversely, miR-151-mediated repression of ARHGDIA mRNA was dependent on the level of mature miR-151 because only the mature miRNA binds the 3' UTR. Thus, processing of miR-151 can have different effects on separate mRNA targets within a cell. A bioinformatics pipeline revealed additional candidate regions where precursor miRNAs can compete with their mature miRNA counterparts. We validated this experimentally for miR-124 and the SNAI2 3' UTR. Hence, miRNA precursors can serve as post-transcriptional regulators of miRNA activity and are not mere biogenesis intermediates.

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