miRNAs and apoptosis: RNAs to die for

Oncogene. 2006 Oct 9;25(46):6176-87. doi: 10.1038/sj.onc.1209912.


MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are small non-coding RNAs of about 18-24 nucleotides in length that negatively regulate gene expression. Discovered only recently, it has become clear that they are involved in many biological processes such as developmental timing, differentiation and cell death. Data that connect miRNAs to various kinds of diseases, particularly cancer, are accumulating. miRNAs can influence cancer development in many ways, including the regulation of cell proliferation, cell transformation, and cell death. In this review, we focus on miRNAs that have been shown to play a role in the regulation of apoptosis. We first describe in detail how Drosophila has been utilized as a model organism to connect several miRNAs with the cell death machinery. We discuss the genetic approaches that led to the identification of those miRNAs and subsequent work that helped to establish their function. In the second part of the review article, we focus on the involvement of miRNAs in apoptosis regulation in mammals. Intriguingly, many of the miRNAs that regulate apoptosis have been shown to affect cancer development. In the end, we discuss a virally encoded miRNA that influences the cell death response in the mammalian host cell. In summary, the data gathered over the recent years clearly show the potential and important role of miRNAs to regulate apoptosis at various levels and in several organisms.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apoptosis*
  • Humans
  • MicroRNAs / physiology*


  • MicroRNAs