The biological functions of miRNAs: lessons from in vivo studies

Trends Cell Biol. 2015 Mar;25(3):137-47. doi: 10.1016/j.tcb.2014.11.004. Epub 2014 Dec 4.


Despite their clear importance as a class of regulatory molecules, pinpointing the relevance of individual miRNAs has been challenging. Studies querying miRNA functions by overexpressing or silencing specific miRNAs have yielded data that are often at odds with those collected from loss-of-functions models. In addition, knockout studies suggest that many conserved miRNAs are dispensable for animal development or viability. In this review, we discuss these observations in the context of our current knowledge of miRNA biology and review the evidence implicating miRNA-mediated gene regulation in the mechanisms that ensure biological robustness.

Keywords: animal models; buffering; miRNAs; network motifs; paralogs.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Gene Expression Profiling
  • Gene Regulatory Networks
  • Humans
  • MicroRNAs / physiology*
  • RNA Interference*


  • MicroRNAs