The evolution of animal microRNA function

  • Niwa R
  • Slack F
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MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are a large class of small RNAs that function as negative gene regulators in eukaryotes. They regulate diverse biological processes, and bioinformatics data indicate that each miRNA can control hundreds of gene targets, underscoring the potential influence of miRNAs on almost every genetic pathway. In addition to the roles in ontogeny, recent evidence has suggested the possibility that miRNAs have huge impacts on animal phylogeny. The dramatically expanding repertoire of miRNAs and their targets appears to be associated with major body-plan innovations as well as the emergence of phenotypic variation in closely related species. Research in the area of miRNA phylogenetic conservation and diversity suggests that miRNAs play important roles in animal evolution, by driving phenotypic variation during development. © 2007 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

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