Annu Rev Biomed Eng 2010 Aug;12:1-27
Division of Biomedical Sciences, University of California, Riverside, California 92521, USA.
microRNAs (miRNAs) are small RNAs 18 to 24 nucleotides in length that serve the pivotal function of regulating gene expression. Instead of being translated into proteins, the mature single-stranded miRNA binds to messenger RNAs (mRNAs) to interfere with the translational process. It is estimated that whereas only 1% of the genomic transcripts in mammalian cells encode miRNA, nearly one-third of the encoded genes are regulated by miRNA. Various bioinformatics databases, tools, and algorithms have been developed to predict the sequences of miRNAs and their target genes. In combination with the in silico approaches in systems biology, experimental studies on miRNA provide a new bioengineering approach for understanding the mechanism of fine-tuning gene regulation. This review aims to provide state-of-the-art information on this important mechanism of gene regulation for researchers working in biomedical engineering and related fields. Particular emphases are placed on summarizing the current tools and strategies for miRNA study from a bioengineering perspective and the possible applications of miRNAs (such as antagomirs and miRNA sponges) in biomedical engineering research.