MicroRNAs are small non-coding RNAs that regulate gene expression at the transcriptional or posttranscriptional level. They are involved in cellular development, differentiation, proliferation and apoptosis and play a significant role in cancer. Examination of tumor-specific microRNA expression profiles has revealed widespread deregulation of these molecules in diverse cancers. Several studies have shown that microRNAs function either as tumor suppressor genes or oncogenes, whose loss or overexpression respectively has diagnostic and prognostic significance. It seems that microRNAs act as major regulators of gene expression. In this review, we discuss microRNAs' role in cancer and how microRNAs exert their functions through regulation of their gene targets. Bioinformatic analysis of putative miRNA binding sites has indicated several novel potential gene targets involved in apoptosis, angiogenesis and metastatic mechanisms. Matching computational prediction analysis together with microarray data seems the best method for microRNA gene target identification. MicroRNAs together with transcription factors generate a complex combinatorial code regulating gene expression. Thus, manipulation of microRNA-transcription factor gene networks may be provides a novel approach for developing cancer therapies.
Keywords: carcinogenesis.; gene networks; gene regulation; microRNAs.