Author(s): Ahmed FE
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Abstract miRNAs, their involvement in cancer development and their potential to be robust biomarkers of diagnosis, staging, prognosis and response to therapy are reviewed. In small RNA animal biogenesis, miRNA genes in the nucleus are transcribed to generate long primary transcripts (pri-miRNAs), which are first cropped by RNase-III-type enzyme Drosha to release hairpin intermediates (pre-miRNAs) in the nucleus. Pre-miRNA is then exported to the cytoplasm by exportin-5. Following arrival in the cytoplasm, pre-miRNAs are subjected to the second processing step (dicing) to release the mature miRNA duplex, which is then separated: one strand becomes the mature miRNA and the other is degraded. These tiny miRNAs induce messenger degradation, translational repression or both. However, there is no evidence to demonstrate that these two mechanisms exist in the regulation of the same gene. Since a miRNA can target numerous mRNAs, often in combination with other miRNAs, these miRNAs operate a highly complex regulatory network. The specific function in most mammalian miRNAs is unknown. However, data suggest that miRNA genes, approximately 1\% of all human genes, regulate protein production for 20-30\% or more of all genes. miRNA expression profiles are effective for classifying solid and hematologic human cancers, and have shown great promise for early cancer detection. This is of great importance for effective treatment before the cells metastasize; therefore, tumors can be surgically resected. Computer-based prediction approaches of miRNAs and their targets, and biological validation techniques for ascertaining these predictions, currently play a central role in the discovery of miRNAs and in elucidating their function. Guidelines have been established for the identification and annotation of new miRNAs to distinguish them from other RNAs, especially siRNAs. These guidelines take into account factors such as transcript structure, conservation and processing, and a centralized, searchable database of all possible miRNA sequence information and annotation for humans and of more than 38 other species. Two approaches are used to characterize miRNAs: studying expression of known miRNAs by hybridization-based techniques (e.g., northern blots, RNase protection, primer extension, real-time, quantitative PCR and microarrays) or discovery of novel miRNAs molecules by cloning and sequencing. Owing to their adaptability and high throughput, microarrays may prove to be the preferred platform for whole-genome miRNA expression analysis.
This article was published in Expert Rev Mol Diagn
and referenced in Molecular Biology: Open Access