The molecular biology dogma that DNA replicates its genetic information within nucleotide sequences and transcribes it to RNA where it codes for the generation of mRNA, failed to consider a significant part of the genetic code. Although it has been generally assumed that most genetic information is executed by proteins, recent evidence suggests that the majority of the genomes of mammals and other complex organisms is transcribed into non-coding RNA (ncRNA), many of which are alternatively spliced and/or processed into smaller functional RNA molecules. ncRNAs are predominantly involved in processes that require highly specific nucleic acid recognition, revealing a, so far hidden, layer of internal signals that control various levels of gene expression in developmental and (patho)physiological processes. MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are a large class of evolutionary conserved, small ncRNAs, typically 18 to 24 nucleotides in length, that primarily function at the posttranscriptional level by interacting with the 3 untranslated region (UTR) of specific target mRNAs in a sequence-specific manner. Despite the advances in miRNA discovery, the role of miRNAs in physiological and pathological processes is just rising, revealing their cellular functions in proliferation and differentiation, apoptosis, the stress response and tumorgenesis. MiRNA expression profiling and the manipulation of their expression in cardiac tissue has led to the discovery of regulatory roles for these small ncRNAs during cardiac development and disease, implicating them in regulation of cardiac gene expression. Here we review the basic mechanisms by which cardiovascular miRNAs are regulated in the larger context of cardiogenesis and in cardiovascular disease.
Keywords: MicroRNA, transcriptional regulation, cardiac disease