Comparative Analysis of miRNA‐mediated Gene Regulation in Mammals


Micro ribonucleic acids (miRNAs) are a class of small noncoding RNAs, which are involved in a range of physiological and pathological processes. All animal miRNAs share common genomic structure, biosynthetic pathways and reaction mechanisms but mammals seem to have more miRNAs to match their organism complexity and longer 3′‐UTR (untranslated region) to evaluate more miRNA target sites. During the episode of miRNA innovation observed at the vertebrates to the placental mammals, multiple unique miRNAs have emerged only in primates as compared with other mammals. The dramatically expanding of mammalian miRNAs and their targets suggest that miRNAs play important roles in mammalian evolution.

Key concepts

  • MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are group of small noncoding RNAs with approximately 22 nucleotides.

  • miRNAs play important roles in many physiological and pathological processes in almost all eukaryotes, including development, cell proliferation, apoptosis, differentiation, tumours and many others.

  • Compared with other animals, mammalians seem to have more miRNAs.

  • The sequence of many miRNAs is conserved, like lin‐4 and let‐7 family, indicating strong functional constraint on miRNA evolution.

  • However, nonconserved miRNAs represent a potentially important source of functional novelties during evolution.

  • There is a rapid evolution of the miRNA cluster in primates, including frequent tandem duplications and nucleotide substitutions.

  • All animal miRNAs share common genomic structure, biosynthetic pathways and reaction mechanisms.

  • Each mammalian miRNA regulates on average 200 target genes whereas many genes have multiple target sites for either one miRNA or many different miRNAs.

  • The avoidance of miRNA targeting might be as important as conservation of miRNA target sites in the evolution of tissue‐specific gene expression patterns.

  • Some miRNAs are similarly expressed in mammals and most metazoans, indicating an evolutionarily conserved function, but others seem to be more ubiquitously expressed and only detected in specific cell types.

Keywords: microRNA; mammals; comparative; analysis; evaluation

Figure 1.

Comparative assay of miRNA sequences between human with chimpanzee and human with mouse.

Figure 2.

The map of miRNA‐binding sites in the human VEGF 3′‐UTR. Three bioinformatics algorithms, RNAhybrid, miRanda and FindTar, were used to predict miRNA‐binding sites in the VEGF 39‐UTR. A binding site map of the VEGF 39‐UTR was generated with the putative binding sites predicted by at least two bioinformatics algorithms (Hua et al., ).

Figure 3.

Mechanisms of miRNA‐mediated gene regulation.



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Zhang, Yaou, and Lv, Qing(Sep 2009) Comparative Analysis of miRNA‐mediated Gene Regulation in Mammals. In: eLS. John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Chichester. [doi: 10.1002/9780470015902.a0021754]