MicroRNAs in placental health and disease

Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2015 Oct;213(4 Suppl):S163-72. doi: 10.1016/j.ajog.2015.05.057.


MicroRNAs (miRNAs) constitute a large family of small noncoding RNAs that are encoded by the genomes of most organisms. They regulate gene expression through posttranscriptional mechanisms to attenuate protein output in various genetic networks. The discovery of miRNAs has transformed our understanding of gene regulation and sparked intense efforts intended to harness their potential as diagnostic markers and therapeutic tools. Over the last decade, a flurry of studies has shed light on placental miRNAs but has also raised many questions regarding the scope of their biologic action. Moreover, the recognition that miRNAs of placental origin are released continually in the maternal circulation throughout pregnancy suggested that circulating miRNAs might serve as biomarkers for placental function during pregnancy. Although this generated much enthusiasm, recently recognized challenges have delayed the application of miRNA-based biomarkers and therapeutics in clinical practice. In this review, we summarize key findings in the field and discuss current knowledge related to miRNAs in the context of placental biology.

Keywords: C19MC; adverse pregnancy outcome; exosomes; miRNA; placenta; pregnancy complications; primate-specific miRNA; trophoblast; trophoblast-specific miRNA.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Biomarkers / blood
  • Extracellular Space / metabolism
  • Female
  • Humans
  • MicroRNAs / blood
  • MicroRNAs / physiology*
  • Placenta Diseases / blood
  • Placenta Diseases / genetics*
  • Pregnancy


  • Biomarkers
  • MicroRNAs