3-Econsystems: MicroRNAs, Receptors, and Latent Viruses; Some Insights Biology Can Gain from Economic Theory

Front Microbiol. 2016 Mar 23;7:369. doi: 10.3389/fmicb.2016.00369. eCollection 2016.


This mini-review describes three biological systems. All three include competing molecules and a limiting molecule that binds the competing molecules. Such systems are extensively researched by economists. In fact, the issue of limited resources is the defining feature of economic systems. Therefore, we call these systems "econsystems." In an econsystem, the allocation of the limiting molecule between the competing molecules determines the behavior of the system. A cell is an example of an econsystem. Therefore, a change in the allocation of a limiting molecule as a result of, for instance, an abnormal change in the concentration of one of the competing molecules, may result in abnormal cellular behavior, and disease. The first econsystem described in this mini-review includes a long non-coding RNA and a messenger RNA (lncRNA and mRNA). The limiting molecule is a microRNA (miRNA). The lncRNA and mRNA are known as competing endogenous RNAs (ceRNAs). The second econsystem includes two receptors, and the limiting molecule is a ligand. The third econsystem includes a cis-regulatory element of a latent virus and that of a human gene. The limiting molecule is a transcription complex that binds both cis-elements.

Keywords: GA-binding protein; cis-regulatory element; latent virus; long non-coding RNA; microRNA; microcompetition.

Publication types

  • Review