Multiciliated cells lining the surface of some vertebrate epithelia are essential for various physiological processes, such as airway cleansing. Their apical surface is constituted by hundreds of motile cilia, which beat in a coordinated manner to generate directional fluid flow. We recently reported the identification of microRNAs of the miR-449 family as evolutionary conserved key regulators of vertebrate multiciliogenesis. This novel function of miR-449 was established using in vivo and in vitro antisense approaches in two distinct experimental models. miR-449 strongly accumulated in multiciliated cells in human airway epithelium and Xenopus laevis embryonic epidermis, where it triggered centriole multiplication and multiciliogenesis by directly repressing the Delta/Notch pathway. Our data complement previous reports that showed the blocking action of miR-449 on the cell cycle, and unraveled a novel conserved mechanism whereby Notch signaling must undergo microRNA-mediated inhibition to permit differentiation of ciliated cell progenitors. We review here several important questions regarding the links between microRNAs and the Notch pathway in the control of cell fate.
© 2011 Landes Bioscience