Experimental strategies for microRNA target identification

Nucleic Acids Res. 2011 Sep 1;39(16):6845-53. doi: 10.1093/nar/gkr330. Epub 2011 Jun 7.


MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are important regulators of eukaryotic gene expression in most biological processes. They act by guiding the RNAi-induced silencing complex (RISC) to partially complementary sequences in target mRNAs to suppress gene expression by a combination of translation inhibition and mRNA decay. The commonly accepted mechanism of miRNA targeting in animals involves an interaction between the 5'-end of the miRNA called the 'seed region' and the 3' untranslated region (3'-UTR) of the mRNA. Many target prediction algorithms are based around such a model, though increasing evidence demonstrates that targeting can also be mediated through sites other than the 3'-UTR and that seed region base pairing is not always required. The power and validity of such in silico data can be therefore hindered by the simplified rules used to represent targeting interactions. Experimentation is essential to identify genuine miRNA targets, however many experimental modalities exist and their limitations need to be understood. This review summarizes and critiques the existing experimental techniques for miRNA target identification.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Gene Expression
  • Gene Expression Regulation
  • Immunoprecipitation
  • MicroRNAs / metabolism*
  • Protein Biosynthesis
  • Proteomics / methods
  • RNA, Messenger / chemistry
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism*
  • Sequence Analysis, RNA


  • MicroRNAs
  • RNA, Messenger