Host gene constraints and genomic context impact the expression and evolution of human microRNAs

Nat Commun. 2016 Apr 25:7:11438. doi: 10.1038/ncomms11438.


Increasing evidence has shown that recent miRNAs tend to emerge within coding genes. Here we conjecture that human miRNA evolution is tightly influenced by the genomic context, especially by host genes. Our findings show a preferential emergence of intragenic miRNAs within old genes. We found that miRNAs within old host genes are significantly more broadly expressed than those within young ones. Young miRNAs within old genes are more broadly expressed than their intergenic counterparts, suggesting that young miRNAs have an initial advantage by residing in old genes, and benefit from their hosts' expression control and from the exposure to diverse cellular contexts and target genes. Our results demonstrate that host genes may provide stronger expression constraints to intragenic miRNAs in the long run. We also report associated functional implications, highlighting the genomic context and host genes as driving factors for the expression and evolution of human miRNAs.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Evolution, Molecular*
  • Gene Expression Regulation
  • Genome, Human*
  • Genomics
  • Humans
  • MicroRNAs / genetics*
  • MicroRNAs / metabolism
  • Phylogeny
  • Vertebrates / classification
  • Vertebrates / genetics


  • MicroRNAs