Combinatorial microRNAs: Working Together to Make a Difference

Cell Cycle. 2008 Oct;7(20):3137-42. doi: 10.4161/cc.7.20.6923. Epub 2008 Oct 4.


MicroRNAs regulate gene networks and therefore are inherently complex. MicroRNAs themselves function in networks of other microRNAs, some of which are co-expressed from the same locus. To better understand the interplay among microRNAs that underlies their functions, we examined the potential of combinatorial effects of endogenously and exogenously co-expressed microRNAs. In this review, we first distill the similarities and differences between three microRNA families that function in cell division, miR-16, miR-34a and miR-106b, with emphasis on their exquisite phenotypic diversity. Given that the microRNAs affect cell cycle progression via distinct targets, we tested for phenotypic synergism among them. Furthermore, we investigate target regulation by individual and pooled microRNAs to gain insight into interactions among microRNAs co-expressed from the same chromosomal locus. The ability of microRNAs to modulate multiple genes within a molecular pathway engenders a novel way of thinking about targeting pathways: instead of a one-inhibitor-one-target model, multiple components in a pathway can be modulated by a microRNA resulting in a potent yet reversible inhibition of the pathway. To fully realize this potential, we need to understand how microRNAs function singly and in concert with each other.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Cycle / physiology
  • Cell Division / physiology
  • Chromosomes / genetics
  • Chromosomes / metabolism
  • Gene Expression Profiling
  • Gene Expression Regulation*
  • Gene Regulatory Networks*
  • Humans
  • MicroRNAs* / genetics
  • MicroRNAs* / metabolism
  • Multigene Family


  • MicroRNAs