Physiological Reviews

MicroRNAs in Development and Disease

Danish Sayed, Maha Abdellatif


MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are a class of posttranscriptional regulators that have recently introduced an additional level of intricacy to our understanding of gene regulation. There are currently over 10,000 miRNAs that have been identified in a range of species including metazoa, mycetozoa, viridiplantae, and viruses, of which 940, to date, are found in humans. It is estimated that more than 60% of human protein-coding genes harbor miRNA target sites in their 3′ untranslated region and, thus, are potentially regulated by these molecules in health and disease. This review will first briefly describe the discovery, structure, and mode of function of miRNAs in mammalian cells, before elaborating on their roles and significance during development and pathogenesis in the various mammalian organs, while attempting to reconcile their functions with our existing knowledge of their targets. Finally, we will summarize some of the advances made in utilizing miRNAs in therapeutics.

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