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Submitted by ChenLiang on Fri, 09/02/2016 - 21:59


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We predict regulatory targets of vertebrate microRNAs (miRNAs) by identifying mRNAs with conserved complementarity to the seed (nucleotides 2-7) of the miRNA. An overrepresentation of conserved adenosines flanking the seed complementary sites in mRNAs indicates that primary sequence determinants can supplement base pairing to specify miRNA target recognition. In a four-genome analysis of 3' UTRs, approximately 13,000 regulatory relationships were detected above the estimate of false-positive predictions, thereby implicating as miRNA targets more than 5300 human genes, which represented 30% of our gene set. Targeting was also detected in open reading frames. In sum, well over one third of human genes appear to be conserved miRNA targets.[1]

Mammalian microRNAs (miRNAs) pair to 3'UTRs of mRNAs to direct their posttranscriptional repression. Important for target recognition are approximately 7 nt sites that match the seed region of the miRNA. However, these seed matches are not always sufficient for repression, indicating that other characteristics help specify targeting. By combining computational and experimental approaches, we uncovered five general features of site context that boost site efficacy: AU-rich nucleotide composition near the site, proximity to sites for coexpressed miRNAs (which leads to cooperative action), proximity to residues pairing to miRNA nucleotides 13-16, positioning within the 3'UTR at least 15 nt from the stop codon, and positioning away from the center of long UTRs. A model combining these context determinants quantitatively predicts site performance both for exogenously added miRNAs and for endogenous miRNA-message interactions. Because it predicts site efficacy without recourse to evolutionary conservation, the model also identifies effective nonconserved sites and siRNA off-targets.[2]

MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are small endogenous RNAs that pair to sites in mRNAs to direct post-transcriptional repression. Many sites that match the miRNA seed (nucleotides 2-7), particularly those in 3' untranslated regions (3'UTRs), are preferentially conserved. Here, we overhauled our tool for finding preferential conservation of sequence motifs and applied it to the analysis of human 3'UTRs, increasing by nearly threefold the detected number of preferentially conserved miRNA target sites. The new tool more efficiently incorporates new genomes and more completely controls for background conservation by accounting for mutational biases, dinucleotide conservation rates, and the conservation rates of individual UTRs. The improved background model enabled preferential conservation of a new site type, the "offset 6mer," to be detected. In total, >45,000 miRNA target sites within human 3'UTRs are conserved above background levels, and >60% of human protein-coding genes have been under selective pressure to maintain pairing to miRNAs. Mammalian-specific miRNAs have far fewer conserved targets than do the more broadly conserved miRNAs, even when considering only more recently emerged targets. Although pairing to the 3' end of miRNAs can compensate for seed mismatches, this class of sites constitutes less than 2% of all preferentially conserved sites detected. The new tool enables statistically powerful analysis of individual miRNA target sites, with the probability of preferentially conserved targeting (P(CT)) correlating with experimental measurements of repression. Our expanded set of target predictions (including conserved 3'-compensatory sites), are available at the TargetScan website, which displays the P(CT) for each site and each predicted target.[3]

Most metazoan microRNAs (miRNAs) target many genes for repression, but the nematode lsy-6 miRNA is much less proficient. Here we show that the low proficiency of lsy-6 can be recapitulated in HeLa cells and that miR-23, a mammalian miRNA, also has low proficiency in these cells. Reporter results and array data indicate two properties of these miRNAs that impart low proficiency: their weak predicted seed-pairing stability (SPS) and their high target-site abundance (TA). These two properties also explain differential propensities of small interfering RNAs (siRNAs) to repress unintended targets. Using these insights, we expand the TargetScan tool for quantitatively predicting miRNA regulation (and siRNA off-targeting) to model differential miRNA (and siRNA) proficiencies, thereby improving prediction performance. We propose that siRNAs designed to have both weaker SPS and higher TA will have fewer off-targets without compromised on-target activity.[4]

MicroRNA targets are often recognized through pairing between the miRNA seed region and complementary sites within target mRNAs, but not all of these canonical sites are equally effective, and both computational and in vivo UV-crosslinking approaches suggest that many mRNAs are targeted through non-canonical interactions. Here, we show that recently reported non-canonical sites do not mediate repression despite binding the miRNA, which indicates that the vast majority of functional sites are canonical. Accordingly, we developed an improved quantitative model of canonical targeting, using a compendium of experimental datasets that we pre-processed to minimize confounding biases. This model, which considers site type and another 14 features to predict the most effectively targeted mRNAs, performed significantly better than existing models and was as informative as the best high-throughput in vivo crosslinking approaches. It drives the latest version of TargetScan (v7.0;, thereby providing a valuable resource for placing miRNAs into gene-regulatory networks.[5]