MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are small (typically 22 nucleotides) non-coding, endogenous, single-stranded RNAs. MiRNA genes are evolutionarily conserved and are located within the introns or exons of protein-coding genes, as well as in intergenic areas. Before the discovery of miRNAs, it had been known that a large part of the genome is not translated into proteins. This so called “junk” DNA was thought to be evolution debris with no function. Recently, the explosive research in this area has established miRNAs as powerful regulators of gene expression. While only about 1,424 human miRNA sequences have been identified so far, genomic computational analysis indicates that as many as 50,000 miRNAs may exist in the human genome, and each may have multiple targets based on similar sequences in the 3-UTR of mRNA. MiRNAs have been implicated in different areas such as the immune response, neural development, DNA repair, apoptosis, oxidative stress response and others and it is impressive the list of diseases which have recently been found to be associated with abnormal miRNA expression. Here, we focus our attention on the importance of cancer regulator miRNAs. They are divided into oncomiRs and anti-oncomiRs that negatively regulate tumor suppressor genes and oncogenes, respectively. Importantly, the association of miRNAs with cancer has prompted additional functional classification of these short RNAs and their potential relevance in cancer diagnosis, prognosis and treatment.
miRNA, cancer, oncomiRs, anti-oncomiRs, nucleotides, protein, genome, apoptosis, oxidative stress, oncogenes
Dept. of Medico-Surgical Sciences and Biotechnologies, Sapienza University of Rome, Corso della Repubblica, 79 - 04100 Latina - Italy.