JOURNAL ARTICLE
REVIEW

microRNAs as oncogenes and tumor suppressors

Baohong Zhang, Xiaoping Pan, George P Cobb, Todd A Anderson
Developmental Biology 2007 February 1, 302 (1): 1-12
16989803
microRNAs (miRNAs) are a new class of non-protein-coding, endogenous, small RNAs. They are important regulatory molecules in animals and plants. miRNA regulates gene expression by translational repression, mRNA cleavage, and mRNA decay initiated by miRNA-guided rapid deadenylation. Recent studies show that some miRNAs regulate cell proliferation and apoptosis processes that are important in cancer formation. By using multiple molecular techniques, which include Northern blot analysis, real-time PCR, miRNA microarray, up- or down-expression of specific miRNAs, it was found that several miRNAs were directly involved in human cancers, including lung, breast, brain, liver, colon cancer, and leukemia. In addition, some miRNAs may function as oncogenes or tumor suppressors. More than 50% of miRNA genes are located in cancer-associated genomic regions or in fragile sites, suggesting that miRNAs may play a more important role in the pathogenesis of a limited range of human cancers than previously thought. Overexpressed miRNAs in cancers, such as mir-17-92, may function as oncogenes and promote cancer development by negatively regulating tumor suppressor genes and/or genes that control cell differentiation or apoptosis. Underexpressed miRNAs in cancers, such as let-7, function as tumor suppressor genes and may inhibit cancers by regulating oncogenes and/or genes that control cell differentiation or apoptosis. miRNA expression profiles may become useful biomarkers for cancer diagnostics. In addition, miRNA therapy could be a powerful tool for cancer prevention and therapeutics.

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