Introduction: Homeostasis in normal tissue includes balancing cell proliferation and apoptosis (programmed cell death). Mutations in proto-oncogenes or tumor suppressor genes may lead to disruption of normal cellular function, uncontrolled cell proliferation, and subsequent carcinogenesis.
Discussion: Micro-RNAs (miRNAs) are short (19-24 nucleotide) noncoding RNA sequences that inhibit protein translation and can cause the degradation of subsequent messenger RNA, thus playing an important role in the regulation of gene expression. Aberrant expression of miRNAs has been shown to inhibit tumor suppressor genes or inappropriately activate oncogenes initiating the cancer process. Unique miRNA expression profiles have been found in different cancer types at different stages, suggesting a possible diagnostic application. This review summarizes the current evidence supporting a link between aberrant miRNA expression and carcinogenesis and its possible role in improving diagnosis and treatment of cancers, particularly of gastrointestinal origin.