MicroRNAs in β-thalassemia

Am J Med Sci. 2021 Jul;362(1):5-12. doi: 10.1016/j.amjms.2021.02.011. Epub 2021 Feb 16.


β-thalassemia is a lethal inherited disease resulting from β-globin gene mutations. Severe β-thalassemia requires regular blood transfusions. Other active interventions, including iron chelating, stem cell transplantation and gene therapy, have remarkably improved the quality of life and prolonged the survival of patients with transfusion-dependent β-thalassemia, but all with significant limitations and complications. MicroRNAs (miRNAs), encoded by a class of endogenous genes, are found to play important roles in regulating globin expression. Among the miRNAs of particular interest related to β-thalassemia, miR-15a/16-1, miR-486-3p, miR-26b, miR-199b-5p, miR-210, miR-34a, miR-138, miR-326, let-7, and miR-17/92 cluster elevate γ-globin expression, while miR-96, miR-146a, miR-223-3p, and miR-144 inhibit γ-globin expression. A couple of miRNAs, miR-144 and miR-150, repress α-globin expression, whereas miR-451 induces α-, β- and γ-globin expression. Single nucleotide polymorphism in miRNA genes or their targeted genes might also contribute to the abnormal expression of hemoglobin. Moreover, changes in the expression of miR-125b, miR-210, miR-451, and miR-609 reflect the severity of anemia and hemolysis in β-thalassemia patients. These results suggest that miRNAs are potential biomarkers for the diagnosis and prognosis of β-thalassemia, and miRNA-based therapeutic strategy might be used as a coordinated approach for effectively treating β-thalassemia.

Keywords: Hemoglobin; microRNA; β-thalassemia.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Humans
  • MicroRNAs / biosynthesis
  • MicroRNAs / genetics*
  • Polymorphism, Single Nucleotide / genetics
  • alpha-Globins / biosynthesis
  • alpha-Globins / genetics
  • beta-Thalassemia / diagnosis*
  • beta-Thalassemia / genetics*
  • beta-Thalassemia / metabolism
  • gamma-Globins / biosynthesis
  • gamma-Globins / genetics


  • MicroRNAs
  • alpha-Globins
  • gamma-Globins