MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are key regulators of sequence-specific gene silencing. However, crucial factors that determine the efficacy of miRNA-mediated target gene silencing are poorly understood. Here we mathematized base-pairing stability and showed that miRNAs with an unstable 5' terminal duplex and stable seed-target duplex exhibit strong silencing activity. The results are consistent with the previous findings that an RNA strand with unstable 5' terminal in miRNA duplex easily loads onto the RNA-induced silencing complex (RISC), and miRNA recognizes target mRNAs with seed-complementary sequences to direct posttranscriptional repression. Our results suggested that both the unwinding and target recognition processes of miRNAs could be proficiently controlled by the thermodynamics of base-pairing in protein-free condition. Interestingly, such thermodynamic parameters might be evolutionarily well adapted to the body temperatures of various species.