MicroRNAs and epigenetics

FEBS J. 2011 May;278(10):1598-609. doi: 10.1111/j.1742-4658.2011.08089.x. Epub 2011 Mar 30.


MicroRNAs (miRNAs) comprise species of short noncoding RNA that regulate gene expression post-transcriptionally. Recent studies have demonstrated that epigenetic mechanisms, including DNA methylation and histone modification, not only regulate the expression of protein-encoding genes, but also miRNAs, such as let-7a, miR-9, miR-34a, miR-124, miR-137, miR-148 and miR-203. Conversely, another subset of miRNAs controls the expression of important epigenetic regulators, including DNA methyltransferases, histone deacetylases and polycomb group genes. This complicated network of feedback between miRNAs and epigenetic pathways appears to form an epigenetics-miRNA regulatory circuit, and to organize the whole gene expression profile. When this regulatory circuit is disrupted, normal physiological functions are interfered with, contributing to various disease processes. The present minireview details recent discoveries involving the epigenetics-miRNA regulatory circuit, suggesting possible biological insights into gene-regulatory mechanisms that may underlie a variety of diseases.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • DNA (Cytosine-5-)-Methyltransferases / metabolism
  • DNA Methyltransferase 3A
  • Epigenesis, Genetic*
  • Gene Expression Regulation
  • Genomic Imprinting
  • Histone Deacetylases / metabolism
  • Humans
  • MicroRNAs / genetics*
  • MicroRNAs / metabolism
  • Polycomb-Group Proteins
  • Proteins / metabolism
  • RNA Polymerase II / metabolism
  • RNA-Binding Proteins
  • Repressor Proteins / metabolism
  • Ribonuclease III / metabolism


  • DGCR8 protein, human
  • DNMT3A protein, human
  • MIRN124 microRNA, human
  • MIRN137 microRNA, human
  • MIRN148 microRNA, human
  • MIRN200 microRNA, human
  • MIRN203 microRNA, human
  • MIRN34 microRNA, human
  • MIRN92 microRNA, human
  • MicroRNAs
  • Polycomb-Group Proteins
  • Proteins
  • RNA-Binding Proteins
  • Repressor Proteins
  • mirnlet7 microRNA, human
  • DNA (Cytosine-5-)-Methyltransferases
  • DNA Methyltransferase 3A
  • RNA Polymerase II
  • DROSHA protein, human
  • Ribonuclease III
  • Histone Deacetylases