MicroRNAs in neural development: from master regulators to fine-tuners

Development. 2017 Jul 1;144(13):2310-2322. doi: 10.1242/dev.144337.


The proper formation and function of neuronal networks is required for cognition and behavior. Indeed, pathophysiological states that disrupt neuronal networks can lead to neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism, schizophrenia or intellectual disability. It is well-established that transcriptional programs play major roles in neural circuit development. However, in recent years, post-transcriptional control of gene expression has emerged as an additional, and probably equally important, regulatory layer. In particular, it has been shown that microRNAs (miRNAs), an abundant class of small regulatory RNAs, can regulate neuronal circuit development, maturation and function by controlling, for example, local mRNA translation. It is also becoming clear that miRNAs are frequently dysregulated in neurodevelopmental disorders, suggesting a role for miRNAs in the etiology and/or maintenance of neurological disease states. Here, we provide an overview of the most prominent regulatory miRNAs that control neural development, highlighting how they act as 'master regulators' or 'fine-tuners' of gene expression, depending on context, to influence processes such as cell fate determination, cell migration, neuronal polarization and synapse formation.

Keywords: Dendrite; MicroRNAs; Neurodevelopmental disorders; Neurogenesis; Synapse.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Axon Guidance / genetics
  • Cell Lineage / genetics
  • Cell Movement / genetics
  • Humans
  • MicroRNAs / genetics
  • MicroRNAs / metabolism*
  • Neurogenesis / genetics*
  • Synapses / metabolism


  • MicroRNAs