Background: Efforts to unravel the extensive impact of the non-coding elements of the human genome
on cell homeostasis and pathological processes have gained momentum over the last couple of decades. miRNAs
refer to short, often 18-25 nucleotides long, non-coding RNA molecules which can regulate gene expression.
Each miRNA can regulate several mRNAs.
Methods: This article reviews the literature on the roles of miRNAs in autism.
Results: Considering the fact that ~ 1% of the human DNA encodes different families of miRNAs, their overall
impact as critical regulators of gene expression in the mammalian brain should be immense. Though the autism
spectrum disorders (ASDs) are predominantly genetic in nature and several candidate genes are already identified,
the highly heterogeneous and multifactorial nature of the disorder makes it difficult to identify common
genetic risk factors. Several studies have suggested that the environmental factors may interact with the genetic
factors to increase the risk. miRNAs could possibly be one of those factors which explain this link between genetics
and the environment.
Conclusion: In the present review, we have summarized our current knowledge on miRNAs and their complex
roles in ASD, and also on their therapeutic applications.