ReviewsNoncoding RNAs

Dysregulation of microRNA biogenesis and gene silencing in cancer

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Sci. Signal.  17 Mar 2015:
Vol. 8, Issue 368, pp. re3
DOI: 10.1126/scisignal.2005825

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MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are noncoding RNAs that play key roles in the regulation of gene expression and the maintenance of homeostasis in animals and plants. Because miRNAs contribute to the regulation of various signaling pathways that mediate cell behavior, aberrant expression of miRNAs is associated with pathological conditions, including cancer. In this review, which contains three figures and 140 references, we discuss current knowledge about how the dysregulation of miRNAs occurs and how this contributes to tumorigenesis.


MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are small noncoding RNAs that suppress the abundance of partially complementary mRNAs and inhibit their translation. Each miRNA can regulate hundreds of mRNAs, sometimes strongly but often weakly, to mediate a diverse array of biological functions, including proliferation, cell signaling, differentiation, stress responses and DNA repair, cell adhesion and motility, inflammation, cell survival, senescence, and apoptosis, all intimately related to cancer initiation, treatment response, and metastasis. The expression and activity of miRNAs are spatially and temporally controlled. Global miRNA expression is reduced in many cancers. In addition, the expression and processing of cancer-related miRNAs that act as oncogenes (“oncomiRs”) or tumor suppressors are often dysregulated in cancer. In this review, we summarize emerging knowledge about how miRNA biogenesis and gene silencing are altered to promote cancer.

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