Noncoding RNAs have emerged as an integral part of posttranscriptional gene regulation. Among that class of RNAs are the microRNAs (miRNAs), which posttranscriptionally regulate target mRNAs containing complementary sequences. The broad presence of miRNAs in lower eukaryotes, plants, and mammals highlights their importance throughout evolution. MiRNAs have been shown to regulate many pathways, including development, and disruption of miRNA function can lead to disease (Ivey and Srivastava, 2010; Jiang et al., 2009). Although the first miRNA genes were discovered in the nematode, Caenorhabditis elegans, almost 20 years ago, the field of miRNA research began when they were found in multiple organisms a little over a decade ago (Lagos-Quintana et al., 2001; Lau et al., 2001; Lee and Ambros, 2001; Lee et al., 1993; Pasquinelli et al., 2000; Wightman et al., 1993). Here, we review one of the first characterized miRNAs, let-7, and describe its role in development and the intricacies of its biogenesis and function.
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