MicroRNAs in the immune response

Cytokine. 2008 Sep;43(3):391-4. doi: 10.1016/j.cyto.2008.07.016. Epub 2008 Aug 12.


MicroRNAs (miRs) were only discovered little more than a decade ago, yet it has become rapidly clear that they are crucial posttranscriptional regulators of gene expression by decreasing the abundance or translational efficiency of mRNAs [Maroney PA, Yu Y, Nilsen TW. MicroRNAs, mRNAs, and translation. Cold Spring Harb Symp Quant Biol 2006;71: 531-5; Nilsen TW. Mechanisms of microRNA-mediated gene regulation in animal cells. Trends Genet 2007;23: 243-9], [1,2]. While the role of miRs in cell fate decisions linked to proliferation, differentiation and apoptosis was recognized early on, the importance of these noncoding small RNAs on immune system development and response has only recently become evident. In addition to facilitating cell fate decisions of immune cells (e.g. miR-181a and miR-223), miRs also regulate central elements of the adaptive immune response such as antigen presentation (e.g. miR-155) and T cell receptor signaling (mir-181a). Furthermore, miRs are involved in innate immunity through regulation of Toll-like receptor signaling and cytokine responses (e.g. miR-146). Intriguingly, cellular miRs not only alter immune cell development and function, but are also able to directly affect viral replication. Conversely, virus-encoded miRs shape the host-virus interactions and regulate the viral life cycle. Here, we provide a brief overview on the role of cellular and viral miRs in the development and function of the immune system.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Gene Expression Regulation / physiology
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Innate / physiology*
  • MicroRNAs / physiology*
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism
  • Toll-Like Receptors / physiology
  • Virus Physiological Phenomena


  • MicroRNAs
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Toll-Like Receptors