MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are expressed in the placenta and can be detected in maternal plasma. An increasing number of studies have been published on the cellular origin, distribution and function of miRNAs in pregnancy. Specific miRNA profiles have been described for the placenta, maternal plasma and several pregnancy disorders. It has been observed that numerous miRNAs, which are predominantly or exclusively expressed during pregnancy, are clustered in chromosomal regions, may be controlled by the same promoters, may have similar seed regions and targets, and work synergistically. The three most eminent clusters are the chromosome 19 miRNA cluster (C19MC), C14MC and miR-371-3 cluster, which is also localized on chromosome 19. MiRNA members of these clusters are not only detected in the placenta, but also in other compartments, e.g. in serum where they have the potential to become novel biomarkers of pregnancy disorders. Additionally, some members are also expressed in a variety of tumors. Antagonism of selected miRNAs or their targets may lead to novel strategies for the development of new drug classes in pregnancy disorders or other diseases. This review summarizes current knowledge on the pregnancy-related miRNA clusters - the C19MC, C14MC and miR-371-3 cluster - in regard to pregnancy and also other, mostly pathological circumstances.
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