The discovery of microRNAs (miRNAs) represents one of the most significant advances in biological and medical sciences in the last decade. Hundreds of miRNAs have been identified in plants, viruses, animals and human beings, and these tiny, non-coding RNA transcripts have been found to play crucial roles in important biological processes involved in human health and disease. Recently, many studies have demonstrated that miR-196 plays critical roles in normal development and in the pathogenesis of human disease processes such as cancer. Several investigations have implemented cell culture and animal models to explore the potential molecular mechanisms of miR-196. This review provides updated information about the structure of the miR-196 gene and the roles of miR-196 in development, cancer and disease formation. Importantly, we discuss the possible molecular mechanisms whereby miR-196 regulates cellular functions including targeting molecules and gene regulation pathways; potential clinical applications are addressed, as well as future directions for investigation. miR-196a may prove to be a novel therapeutic target for several cancers.
© 2011 The Author Journal of Cellular and Molecular Medicine © 2011 Foundation for Cellular and Molecular Medicine/Blackwell Publishing Ltd.