MicroRNAs and their targets: recognition, regulation and an emerging reciprocal relationship

Nat Rev Genet. 2012 Mar 13;13(4):271-82. doi: 10.1038/nrg3162.


MicroRNAs (miRNAs) have emerged as key gene regulators in diverse biological pathways. These small non-coding RNAs bind to target sequences in mRNAs, typically resulting in repressed gene expression. Several methods are now available for identifying miRNA target sites, but the mere presence of an miRNA-binding site is insufficient for predicting target regulation. Regulation of targets by miRNAs is subject to various levels of control, and recent developments have presented a new twist; targets can reciprocally control the level and function of miRNAs. This mutual regulation of miRNAs and target genes is challenging our understanding of the gene-regulatory role of miRNAs in vivo and has important implications for the use of these RNAs in therapeutic settings.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Binding Sites
  • Gene Expression Regulation
  • MicroRNAs / physiology*
  • RNA Stability
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism*
  • RNA-Binding Proteins / genetics
  • RNA-Binding Proteins / metabolism
  • RNA-Induced Silencing Complex / genetics
  • RNA-Induced Silencing Complex / metabolism


  • MicroRNAs
  • RNA, Messenger
  • RNA-Binding Proteins
  • RNA-Induced Silencing Complex