Individual microRNAs (miRNAs) display distinct mRNA targeting "rules"

RNA Biol. 2010 May-Jun;7(3):373-80. doi: 10.4161/rna.7.3.11693.


MicroRNAs (miRNAs) guide Argonaute (AGO)-containing microribonucleoprotein (miRNP) complexes to target mRNAs.It has been assumed that miRNAs behave similarly to each other with regard to mRNA target recognition. The usual assumptions, which are based on prior studies, are that miRNAs target preferentially sequences in the 3'UTR of mRNAs,guided by the 5' "seed" portion of the miRNAs. Here we isolated AGO- and miRNA-containing miRNPs from human H4 tumor cells by co-immunoprecipitation (co-IP) with anti-AGO antibody. Cells were transfected with miR-107, miR-124,miR-128, miR-320, or a negative control miRNA. Co-IPed RNAs were subjected to downstream high-density Affymetrix Human Gene 1.0 ST microarray analyses using an assay we validated previously-a "RIP-Chip" experimental design. RIP-Chip data provided a list of mRNAs recruited into the AGO-miRNP in correlation to each miRNA. These experimentally identified miRNA targets were analyzed for complementary six nucleotide "seed" sequences within the transfected miRNAs. We found that miR-124 targets tended to have sequences in the 3'UTR that would be recognized by the 5' seed of miR-124, as described in previous studies. By contrast, miR-107 targets tended to have 'seed' sequences in the mRNA open reading frame, but not the 3' UTR. Further, mRNA targets of miR-128 and miR-320 are less enriched for 6-mer seed sequences in comparison to miR-107 and miR-124. In sum, our data support the importance of the 5' seed in determining binding characteristics for some miRNAs; however, the "binding rules" are complex, and individual miRNAs can have distinct sequence determinants that lead to mRNA targeting.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Base Sequence / physiology
  • Binding Sites / genetics
  • Humans
  • Immunoprecipitation / methods
  • Mice
  • MicroRNAs / chemistry
  • MicroRNAs / genetics
  • MicroRNAs / metabolism*
  • MicroRNAs / physiology*
  • Models, Biological
  • Oligonucleotide Array Sequence Analysis
  • RNA Interference / physiology*
  • RNA, Messenger / chemistry
  • RNA, Messenger / genetics
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism*
  • Transfection


  • MIRN107 microRNA, human
  • MIRN124 microRNA, human
  • MIRN128 microRNA, human
  • MicroRNAs
  • Mirn320 microRNA, mouse
  • RNA, Messenger