A novel biochemical method to identify target genes of individual microRNAs: identification of a new Caenorhabditis elegans let-7 target

RNA. 2008 Nov;14(11):2440-51. doi: 10.1261/rna.1139508. Epub 2008 Sep 29.


MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are roughly 22-nucleotide regulatory RNAs that play important roles in many developmental and physiological processes. Animal miRNAs down-regulate target genes by forming imperfect base pairs with 3' untranslated regions (3' UTRs) of their mRNAs. Thousands of miRNAs have been discovered in several organisms. However, the target genes of almost all of these miRNAs remain to be identified. Here, we describe a method for isolating cDNA clones of target mRNAs that form base pairs in vivo with an endogenous miRNA of interest, in which the cDNAs are synthesized from the mRNAs using the miRNA as a reverse-transcription primer. The application of this method to Caenorhabditis elegans miRNA lin-4 under test conditions yielded many clones of the known target gene lin-14 that correspond to partial sequences 5' to lin-4 binding sites in the 3' UTR. The method was also applied to C. elegans miRNA let-7 and a new target gene responsible for the lethal phenotype in let-7 mutants was identified. These results demonstrate that the method is a useful way to identify targets on the basis of base pairing with individual miRNAs.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Base Sequence
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / genetics*
  • Cloning, Molecular
  • DNA, Complementary / genetics
  • DNA, Complementary / isolation & purification*
  • DNA, Complementary / metabolism
  • Gene Expression Regulation*
  • MicroRNAs / genetics
  • MicroRNAs / metabolism*
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction / methods*


  • DNA, Complementary
  • MicroRNAs
  • let-7 microRNA, C elegans