Animal MicroRNAs confer robustness to gene expression and have a significant impact on 3'UTR evolution

Alexander Stark, Julius Brennecke, Natascha Bushati, Robert B Russell, Stephen M Cohen
Cell 2005 December 16, 123 (6): 1133-46
MicroRNAs are small noncoding RNAs that serve as posttranscriptional regulators of gene expression in higher eukaryotes. Their widespread and important role in animals is highlighted by recent estimates that 20%-30% of all genes are microRNA targets. Here, we report that a large set of genes involved in basic cellular processes avoid microRNA regulation due to short 3'UTRs that are specifically depleted of microRNA binding sites. For individual microRNAs, we find that coexpressed genes avoid microRNA sites, whereas target genes and microRNAs are preferentially expressed in neighboring tissues. This mutually exclusive expression argues that microRNAs confer accuracy to developmental gene-expression programs, thus ensuring tissue identity and supporting cell-lineage decisions.

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