Involvement of microRNAs in physiological and pathological processes in the lung

Respir Res. 2010 Nov 23;11(1):159. doi: 10.1186/1465-9921-11-159.


To date, at least 900 different microRNA (miRNA) genes have been discovered in the human genome. These short, single-stranded RNA molecules originate from larger precursor molecules that fold to produce hairpin structures, which are subsequently processed by ribonucleases Drosha/Pasha and Dicer to form mature miRNAs. MiRNAs play role in the posttranscriptional regulation of about one third of human genes, mainly via degradation of target mRNAs. Whereas the target mRNAs are often involved in the regulation of diverse physiological processes ranging from developmental timing to apoptosis, miRNAs have a strong potential to regulate fundamental biological processes also in the lung compartment. However, the knowledge of the role of miRNAs in physiological and pathological conditions in the lung is still limited. This review, therefore, summarizes current knowledge of the mechanism, function of miRNAs and their contribution to lung development and homeostasis. Besides the involvement of miRNAs in pulmonary physiological conditions, there is evidence that abnormal miRNA expression may lead to pathological processes and development of various pulmonary diseases. Next, the review describes current state-of-art on the miRNA expression profiles in smoking-related diseases including lung cancerogenesis, in immune system mediated pulmonary diseases and fibrotic processes in the lung. From the current research it is evident that miRNAs may play role in the posttranscriptional regulation of key genes in human pulmonary diseases. Further studies are, therefore, necessary to explore miRNA expression profiles and their association with target mRNAs in human pulmonary diseases.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Gene Expression Regulation*
  • Gene Targeting*
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / physiopathology*
  • Lung / metabolism*
  • Lung Diseases / physiopathology*
  • MicroRNAs / genetics*
  • MicroRNAs / metabolism*


  • MicroRNAs