In C. elegans, heterochronic genes control the timing of cell fate determination during development. Two heterochronic genes, let-7 and lin-4, encode microRNAs (miRNAs) that down-regulate a third heterochronic gene lin-41 by binding to complementary sites in its 3'UTR. let-7 and lin-4 are conserved in mammals. Here we report the cloning and sequencing of mammalian lin-41 orthologs. We find that mouse and human lin-41 genes contain predicted conserved complementary sites for let-7 and the lin-4 ortholog, mir-125, in their 3'UTRs. Mouse lin-41 (Mlin-41) is temporally expressed in developing mouse embryos, most dramatically in the limb buds. Mlin-41 is down-regulated during mid-embryogenesis at the time when mouse let-7c and mir-125 RNA levels are up-regulated. Our results suggest that mammalian lin-41 is temporally regulated by miRNAs in order to direct key developmental events such as limb formation.
Copyright 2005 Wiley-Liss, Inc.