MicroRNAs in disease and potential therapeutic applications

Mol Ther. 2007 Dec;15(12):2070-9. doi: 10.1038/sj.mt.6300311. Epub 2007 Sep 18.


MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are 21-24 nucleotide (nt) duplex RNAs that are created from precursor transcripts by subsequent processing steps mediated by members of the RNAseIII family, Drosha and Dicer. One of the two strands is incorporated into the active sites of the Argonaute family of proteins, where it serves as a guide for Watson-Crick base pairing with complementary sequences in target messenger RNAs (mRNAs). In mammals, the majority of miRNAs guide the RNA-induced silencing complex (RISC) to the 3' untranslated regions (UTRs) of mRNA targets, with the consequence that translation of the target mRNAs is inhibited. The importance of miRNAs in normal cellular development and metabolism is only now being realized. miRNA deficiencies or excesses have been correlated with a number of clinically important diseases ranging from myocardial infarction to cancers. The loss or gain of miRNA function can be caused by a single point mutation in either the miRNA or its target or by epigenetic silencing of primary miRNA transcription units. This review summarizes miRNA biogenesis and biology, explores the potential roles miRNAs can play in a variety of diseases, and suggests some therapeutic applications for restoring or inhibiting miRNA function.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • MicroRNAs / genetics
  • MicroRNAs / physiology*
  • RNA Interference
  • RNA, Messenger / genetics


  • MicroRNAs
  • RNA, Messenger