microRNAs have recently opened new pathways to explain gene expression and disease biology in many scenarios, including cardiac diseases. microRNAs are endogenous small non-coding RNAs that mediate post-transcriptional repression or messenger RNA degradation. By annealing to inexactly complementary sequences in the 3 untranslated region of the target messenger RNA, protein level is down-regulated. Several microRNAs appear to act cooperatively through multiple target sites in one gene and, conversely, most microRNAs can target several genes. miR-133 and miR-1 are specifically expressed in cardiac and skeletal muscle and control myogenesis, cardiac development, cardiac performance and cardiomyocyte hypertrophy (mainly by tuning transcription factors and other growth-related targets). They also modulate the expression of certain cardiac ion channels and related proteins with proarrhythmic effect. Besides them, other microRNAs have been shown to exert influence on the myocardial growth, the electrical balance and the angiogenesis processes that take place in the heart. Bioinformatics is a useful tool to identify potential targets of a given microRNA, although there is still substantial concern about their reliability. Experimental manipulation of microRNAs has provided a tantalizing basis to speculate that future research on microRNAs may yield important progress in the prevention of sudden cardiac death and in the treatment of cardiac heart failure. However, the final effect of the blockage of microRNAs in vivo remains unclear, since each of them can target hundreds of genes with different intensity. The era of the microRNAs in cardiovascular diseases has just started.
Keywords: microRNA, gene expression, differentiation, cardiac hypertrophy, ion channel, repolarization, connexin, angiogenesis
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