MicroRNAs are small non-coding RNA guide molecules that regulate gene expression via association with effector complexes and sequence-specific recognition of target sites on other RNAs; misregulated microRNA expression and functions are linked to a variety of tumors, developmental disorders, and immune disease. MicroRNAs have primarily been demonstrated to mediate posttranscriptional downregulation of expression; translational repression, and deadenylation-dependent decay of messages through partially complementary microRNA target sites in mRNA untranslated regions (UTRs). However, an emerging assortment of studies, discussed in this review, reveal that microRNAs and their associated protein complexes (microribonucleoproteins or microRNPs) can additionally function to posttranscriptionally stimulate gene expression by direct and indirect mechanisms. These reports indicate that microRNA-mediated effects can be selective, regulated by the RNA sequence context, and associated with RNP factors and cellular conditions. Like repression, translation upregulation by microRNAs has been observed to range from fine-tuning effects to significant alterations in expression. These studies uncover remarkable, new abilities of microRNAs and associated microRNPs in gene expression control and underscore the importance of regulation, in cis and trans, in directing appropriate microRNP responses.
Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.