MicroRNAs (miRNAs) represent the most abundant class of regulators of gene expression in humans: they regulate one-third of human protein-coding genes. These small noncoding ∼22-nucleotides (nt)-long RNAs originate by multistep process from miRNA genes localized in the genomic DNA. To date, more than 1420 miRNAs have been identified in humans (miRBase v17). The main mechanism of miRNA action is the posttranscriptional regulation via RNA interference with their target mRNAs. The majority of target mRNAs (more than 80%) undergo degradation after recognition by complementary miRNA; the translational inhibition with little or no influence on mRNA levels has been also reported. Each miRNA may suppress multiple mRNA targets (average ∼200), and at the same time, one mRNA can be targeted by many miRNAs enabling to control a spectrum wide range of cellular processes. Recently, the role of miRNAs in the development of immune cells and the maintenance of immune system homeostasis gained attention, and the involvement of miRNAs in the pathogenesis of several immune system diseases has emerged. This review focuses on the role of miRNAs in autoimmune disorders (systemic lupus erythematosus, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, inflammatory bowel disease and psoriasis), inflammatory pathologies of distinct organ (atherosclerosis, osteoarthritis and atopic eczema) and/or systemic locations such as allergy. The role of miRNAs, their predicted and known mRNA targets and description of their actions in physiological immune reactions and in the pathological processes ongoing in immune-mediated human disorders will be discussed. Finally, miRNA-based diagnostics and therapeutic potentials will be highlighted.
© 2011 The Authors. Scandinavian Journal of Immunology © 2011 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.