Pathobiology of MicroRNAs and Their Emerging Role in Thyroid Fine-Needle Aspiration

Acta Cytol. 2015;59(6):435-44. doi: 10.1159/000442145. Epub 2016 Jan 9.


Objective: MicroRNAs (miRs) are noncoding, single-stranded regulatory RNA molecules involved in the posttranscriptional regulation of gene expression. They control the development and maintenance of the diverse cellular processes including proliferation, differentiation, motility and apoptosis. Expression of miRs is tissue-specific and each alteration of the tissue miR profile is associated with a distinct disease status.

Study design: We reviewed the literature on the expression of miRs in thyroid tumors, focusing on methodology and diagnostic and prognostic output. Separately, we analyzed 11 studies on miR profiles in thyroid cytological material.

Results: Numerous studies have evaluated the miR profiles of thyroid tumors in an attempt to find a possible diagnostic and prognostic role. Both downregulation and upregulation of numerous miRs was found, but differences between the surgical pathology specimens and corresponding fine-needle aspirates in the expression of the same miRs were also reported.

Conclusions: The results from surgically resected material cannot be extrapolated into preoperative use without validation. For diagnostic use, the strong overlap between follicular adenoma and follicular carcinoma miR profiles is challenging. In summary, miR-221 and miR-222 are consistently upregulated in different types of thyroid carcinomas and might be used as markers of malignancy.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Biomarkers, Tumor / genetics*
  • Biopsy, Fine-Needle*
  • Gene Expression Profiling
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic
  • Humans
  • MicroRNAs / genetics*
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Thyroid Gland / chemistry*
  • Thyroid Gland / pathology
  • Thyroid Gland / surgery
  • Thyroid Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Thyroid Neoplasms / genetics
  • Thyroid Neoplasms / pathology
  • Thyroid Neoplasms / surgery


  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • MicroRNAs