MicroRNAs: key players in the immune system, differentiation, tumorigenesis and cell death

Oncogene. 2008 Oct 6;27(45):5959-74. doi: 10.1038/onc.2008.274.


Micro (mi)RNAs are small, highly conserved noncoding RNAs that control gene expression post-transcriptionally either via the degradation of target mRNAs or the inhibition of protein translation. Each miRNA is believed to regulate the expression of multiple mRNA targets, and many miRNAs have been linked to the initiation and progression of human cancer. miRNAs control various activities of the immune system and different stages of hematopoietic development, and their misexpression is the cause of various blood malignancies. Certain miRNAs have oncogenic activities, whereas others have the potential to act as tumor suppressors. Because they control fundamental processes such as differentiation, cell growth and cell death, the study of the role of miRNAs in human neoplasms holds great promise for novel forms of therapy. Here, we summarize the role of miRNAs and their targets in contributing to human cancers and their function as regulators of apoptotic pathways and the immune system.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apoptosis / genetics*
  • Cell Death / genetics
  • Cell Differentiation / genetics*
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic
  • Genes, Tumor Suppressor / physiology
  • Hematopoiesis / genetics
  • Humans
  • Immune System / metabolism
  • Immune System / physiology*
  • MicroRNAs / metabolism
  • MicroRNAs / physiology*
  • Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Oncogenes / physiology
  • RNA, Neoplasm / genetics


  • MicroRNAs
  • RNA, Neoplasm
  • mirnlet7 microRNA, human