Most Caenorhabditis elegans microRNAs are individually not essential for development or viability

PLoS Genet. 2007 Dec;3(12):e215. doi: 10.1371/journal.pgen.0030215.


MicroRNAs (miRNAs), a large class of short noncoding RNAs found in many plants and animals, often act to post-transcriptionally inhibit gene expression. We report the generation of deletion mutations in 87 miRNA genes in Caenorhabditis elegans, expanding the number of mutated miRNA genes to 95, or 83% of known C. elegans miRNAs. We find that the majority of miRNAs are not essential for the viability or development of C. elegans, and mutations in most miRNA genes do not result in grossly abnormal phenotypes. These observations are consistent with the hypothesis that there is significant functional redundancy among miRNAs or among gene pathways regulated by miRNAs. This study represents the first comprehensive genetic analysis of miRNA function in any organism and provides a unique, permanent resource for the systematic study of miRNAs.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / genetics*
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / growth & development*
  • Conserved Sequence
  • Evolution, Molecular
  • Genes, Helminth
  • MicroRNAs / genetics*
  • Mutation
  • Phenotype
  • RNA, Helminth / genetics*
  • Sequence Deletion


  • MicroRNAs
  • RNA, Helminth