MicroRNA binding sites in the coding region of mRNAs: extending the repertoire of post-transcriptional gene regulation

Bioessays. 2014 Jun;36(6):617-26. doi: 10.1002/bies.201300104. Epub 2014 Apr 15.


It is well established that microRNAs (miRNAs) induce mRNA degradation by binding to 3' untranslated regions (UTRs). The functionality of sites in the coding domain sequence (CDS), on the other hand, remains under discussion. Such sites have limited impact on target mRNA abundance and recent work suggests that miRNAs bind in the CDS to inhibit translation. What then could be the regulatory benefits of translation inhibition through CDS targeting compared to mRNA degradation following 3' UTR binding? We propose that these domain-dependent effects serve to diversify the functional repertoire of post-transcriptional gene expression control. Possible regulatory benefits may include tuning the time-scale and magnitude of post-transcriptional regulation, regulating protein abundance depending on or independently of the cellular state, and regulation of the protein abundance of alternative splice variants. Finally, we review emerging evidence that these ideas may generalize to RNA-binding proteins beyond miRNAs and Argonaute proteins.

Keywords: 3′ UTR; CDS; RBPs; mRNA degradation; miRNAs; post-transcriptional regulation; translation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Binding Sites
  • Gene Expression Regulation*
  • Humans
  • MicroRNAs / metabolism*
  • Open Reading Frames / genetics*
  • RNA, Messenger
  • RNA-Binding Proteins / metabolism
  • Transcription, Genetic*


  • MicroRNAs
  • RNA, Messenger
  • RNA-Binding Proteins