MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are a class of small RNAs that silence gene expression. In animal cells, miRNAs bind to the 3' untranslated regions of specific mRNAs and inhibit their translation. Although some targets of a handful of miRNAs are known, the number and identities of mRNA targets in the genome are uncertain, as are the developmental functions of miRNA regulation. To identify the global range of miRNA-regulated genes during oocyte maturation of Drosophila, we compared the proteome from wild-type oocytes with the proteome from oocytes lacking the dicer-1 gene, which is essential for biogenesis of miRNAs. Most identified proteins appeared to be subject to translation inhibition. Their transcripts contained putative binding sites in the 3' untranslated region for a subset of miRNAs, based on computer modeling. The fraction of genes subject to direct and indirect repression by miRNAs during oocyte maturation appears to be small (4%), and the genes tend to share a common functional relationship in protein biogenesis and turnover. The preponderance of genes that control global protein abundance suggests this process is under tight control by miRNAs at the onset of fertilization.
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