Author(s): Ye JJ, Cao J
MicroRNAs are evolutionarily conserved small non-coding RNA molecules encoded by eukaryotic genomic DNA, and function in post-transcriptional regulation of gene expression via base-pairing with complementary sequences in target mRNAs, resulting in translational repression or degradation of target mRNAs. They represent one of the major types of epigenetic modification and play important roles in all aspects of cellular activities. Altered expression of microRNAs has been found in various human diseases including cancer. Many efforts have been made to discover the characteristic microRNA expression profiles, to understand the roles of aberrantly expressed microRNAs and underlying mechanisms in different cancers. With the application of DNA microarray, real-time quantitative polymerase chain reaction and other molecular biology techniques, increasing evidence has been accumulated which reveal that aberrant microRNAs can be detected not only intracellularly within the cancer cells, but also extracellularly in plasma of patients, postulating the potential of aberrant microRNAs as promising diagnostic/prognostic markers and attracting therapeutic targets. This review is intended to provide the most recent advances in microRNA studies in one of the most common cancers, colorectal cancer, especially the identification of those specifically altered microRNAs in colorectal cancer, validation for their relevance to clinical pathological parameters of patients, functional analyses and potential applications of these microRNAs.