MicroRNA-mediated regulation of gene expression is affected by disease-associated SNPs within the 3'-UTR via altered RNA structure

RNA Biol. 2012 Jun;9(6):924-37. doi: 10.4161/rna.20497. Epub 2012 Jun 1.


Single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in microRNAs (miRNAs) or their target sites (miR-SNPs) within the 3'-UTR of mRNAs are increasingly thought to play a major role in pathological dysregulation of gene expression. Here, we studied the functional role of miR-SNPs on miRNA-mediated post-transcriptional regulation of gene expression. First, analyses were performed on a SNP located in the miR-155 target site within the 3'-UTR of the Angiotensin II type 1 receptor (AGTR1; rs5186, A > C) mRNA. Second, a SNP in the 3'-UTR of the muscle RAS oncogene homolog (MRAS; rs9818870, C > T) mRNA was studied which is located outside of binding sites of miR-195 and miR-135. Using these SNPs we investigated their effects on local RNA structure, on local structural accessibility and on functional miRNA binding, respectively. Systematic computational RNA folding analyses of the allelic mRNAs in either case predicted significant changes of local RNA structure in the vicinity of the cognate miRNA binding sites. Consistently, experimental in vitro probing of RNA showing differential cleavage patterns and reporter gene-based assays indicated functional differences of miRNA-mediated regulation of the two AGTR1 and MRAS alleles. In conclusion, we describe a novel model explaining the functional influence of 3'-UTR-located SNPs on miRNA-mediated control of gene expression via SNP-related changes of local RNA structure in non-coding regions of mRNA. This concept substantially extends the meaning of disease-related SNPs identified in non protein-coding transcribed sequences within or close to miRNA binding sites.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • 3' Untranslated Regions*
  • Base Sequence
  • Binding Sites
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / genetics
  • HeLa Cells
  • Humans
  • MicroRNAs / genetics*
  • MicroRNAs / metabolism
  • MicroRNAs / physiology
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Nucleic Acid Conformation
  • Polymorphism, Single Nucleotide*
  • Protein Binding
  • RNA Interference*
  • RNA, Messenger / genetics*
  • Receptor, Angiotensin, Type 1 / genetics
  • Receptor, Angiotensin, Type 1 / metabolism
  • Thermodynamics
  • ras Proteins / genetics


  • 3' Untranslated Regions
  • AGTR1 protein, human
  • MRAS protein, human
  • MicroRNAs
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Receptor, Angiotensin, Type 1
  • ras Proteins