Collaborating researchers at New York University and Rockefeller University have discovered that microRNA genes, which have recently been shown to have key roles in gene regulation, can team up and regulate target genes in mammals. MicroRNAs are a recently discovered large class of regulatory, non-coding genes, which bind to partially complementary sites in target messenger RNA to regulate their stability and translation. However, little has been known about the biological function of microRNAs--a process the current study sought to explore.
The paper, published in the latest issue of the journal Nature Genetics, found that a microRNA gene regulates, on average, 200 different human gene transcripts and that many microRNAs can coordinate their activities to regulate specific target genes. The paper contains detailed genome-wide predictions for all human microRNAs as well as tissue-specific predictions. Several predictions were validated experimentally. The findings demonstrate an unforeseen staggering complexity of gene regulation executed by microRNAs on a genome-wide level.
In this study, lead author Nikolaus Rajewsky, a genomics faculty member in NYUs Center for Comparative Functional Genomics and an assistant professor in the Department of Biology, and the research team developed "PicTar," a new algorithm for the identification of microRNA target sites in the genome and used it to compare sequences from eight different vertebrates.
James Devitt | EurekAlert!
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