Large numbers and quantities of different, small RNA molecules are present in the cytoplasm of animal and plant cells. One subclass of these molecules is represented by the noncoding microRNAs. Since their discovery in the 1990s a multitude of basic information has accumulated, which has identified their function in post-transcriptional control, either via degradation or translational inhibition of target mRNAs. This function is in most of the cases a finetuning of gene expression, working in parallel with transcriptional regulatory processes. MicroRNA expression profiles are highly dynamic during embryonic development and in adulthood. Misexpression of microRNAs can perturb embryogenesis, organogenesis, tissue homeostasis and the cell cycle. Evidence from gain- and loss-of function studies indicates roles for microRNAs in pathophysiologic states including cardiac hypertrophy, muscle dystrophy, hepatitis infection, diabetes, Parkinson syndrome, hematological malignancies and other types of cancer. In this review, we focus on studies addressing the role of various microRNAs in heart, muscle, liver, pancreas, central nervous system, and hematopoiesis.
Keywords: microRNA, development, disease, cell cycle