Identification and Analysis of Human Sex-biased MicroRNAs

Genomics Proteomics Bioinformatics. 2018 Jun;16(3):200-211. doi: 10.1016/j.gpb.2018.03.004. Epub 2018 Jul 11.


Sex differences are widely observed under various circumstances ranging from physiological processes to therapeutic responses, and a myriad of sex-biased genes have been identified. In recent years, transcriptomic datasets of microRNAs (miRNAs), an important class of non-coding RNAs, become increasingly accessible. However, comprehensive analysis of sex difference in miRNA expression has not been performed. Here, we identified the differentially-expressed miRNAs between males and females by examining the transcriptomic datasets available in public databases and conducted a systemic analysis of their biological characteristics. Consequently, we identified 73 female-biased miRNAs (FmiRs) and 163 male-biased miRNAs (MmiRs) across four tissues including brain, colorectal mucosa, peripheral blood, and cord blood. Our results suggest that compared to FmiRs, MmiRs tend to be clustered in the human genome and exhibit higher evolutionary rate, higher expression tissue specificity, and lower disease spectrum width. In addition, functional enrichment analysis of miRNAs show that FmiR genes are significantly associated with metabolism process and cell cycle process, whereas MmiR genes tend to be enriched for functions like histone modification and circadian rhythm. In all, the identification and analysis of sex-biased miRNAs together could provide new insights into the biological differences between females and males and facilitate the exploration of sex-biased disease susceptibility and therapy.

Keywords: Conservation; Disease association; MicroRNAs; Personalized medicine; Sex bias.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Biological Evolution
  • Female
  • Genome, Human*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • MicroRNAs / blood
  • MicroRNAs / genetics*
  • Organ Specificity
  • Sex Characteristics*
  • Transcriptome*


  • MicroRNAs