The recent discoveries of microRNA (miRNA) genes and characterization of the first few target genes regulated by miRNAs in Caenorhabditis elegans and Drosophila melanogaster have set the stage for elucidation of a novel network of regulatory control. We present a computational method for whole-genome prediction of miRNA target genes. The method is validated using known examples. For each miRNA, target genes are selected on the basis of three properties: sequence complementarity using a position-weighted local alignment algorithm, free energies of RNA-RNA duplexes, and conservation of target sites in related genomes. Application to the D. melanogaster, Drosophila pseudoobscura and Anopheles gambiae genomes identifies several hundred target genes potentially regulated by one or more known miRNAs.
These potential targets are rich in genes that are expressed at specific developmental stages and that are involved in cell fate specification, morphogenesis and the coordination of developmental processes, as well as genes that are active in the mature nervous system. High-ranking target genes are enriched in transcription factors two-fold and include genes already known to be under translational regulation. Our results reaffirm the thesis that miRNAs have an important role in establishing the complex spatial and temporal patterns of gene activity necessary for the orderly progression of development and suggest additional roles in the function of the mature organism. In addition the results point the way to directed experiments to determine miRNA functions.
The emerging combinatorics of miRNA target sites in the 3' untranslated regions of messenger RNAs are reminiscent of transcriptional regulation in promoter regions of DNA, with both one-to-many and many-to-one relationships between regulator and target. Typically, more than one miRNA regulates one message, indicative of cooperative translational control. Conversely, one miRNA may have several target genes, reflecting target multiplicity. As a guide to focused experiments, we provide detailed online information about likely target genes and binding sites in their untranslated regions, organized by miRNA or by gene and ranked by likelihood of match. The target prediction algorithm is freely available and can be applied to whole genome sequences using identified miRNA sequences.
MicroRNAs (miRNAs) interact with target mRNAs at specific sites to induce cleavage of the message or inhibit translation. The specific function of most mammalian miRNAs is unknown. We have predicted target sites on the 3' untranslated regions of human gene transcripts for all currently known 218 mammalian miRNAs to facilitate focused experiments. We report about 2,000 human genes with miRNA target sites conserved in mammals and about 250 human genes conserved as targets between mammals and fish. The prediction algorithm optimizes sequence complementarity using position-specific rules and relies on strict requirements of interspecies conservation. Experimental support for the validity of the method comes from known targets and from strong enrichment of predicted targets in mRNAs associated with the fragile X mental retardation protein in mammals. This is consistent with the hypothesis that miRNAs act as sequence-specific adaptors in the interaction of ribonuclear particles with translationally regulated messages. Overrepresented groups of targets include mRNAs coding for transcription factors, components of the miRNA machinery, and other proteins involved in translational regulation, as well as components of the ubiquitin machinery, representing novel feedback loops in gene regulation. Detailed information about target genes, target processes, and open-source software for target prediction (miRanda) is available at http://www.microrna.org. Our analysis suggests that miRNA genes, which are about 1% of all human genes, regulate protein production for 10% or more of all human genes.
MicroRNA.org (http://www.microrna.org) is a comprehensive resource of microRNA target predictions and expression profiles. Target predictions are based on a development of the miRanda algorithm which incorporates current biological knowledge on target rules and on the use of an up-to-date compendium of mammalian microRNAs. MicroRNA expression profiles are derived from a comprehensive sequencing project of a large set of mammalian tissues and cell lines of normal and disease origin. Using an improved graphical interface, a user can explore (i) the set of genes that are potentially regulated by a particular microRNA, (ii) the implied cooperativity of multiple microRNAs on a particular mRNA and (iii) microRNA expression profiles in various tissues. To facilitate future updates and development, the microRNA.org database structure and software architecture is flexibly designed to incorporate new expression and target discoveries. The web resource provides users with functional information about the growing number of microRNAs and their interaction with target genes in many species and facilitates novel discoveries in microRNA gene regulation.
mirSVR is a new machine learning method for ranking microRNA target sites by a down-regulation score. The algorithm trains a regression model on sequence and contextual features extracted from miRanda-predicted target sites. In a large-scale evaluation, miRanda-mirSVR is competitive with other target prediction methods in identifying target genes and predicting the extent of their downregulation at the mRNA or protein levels. Importantly, the method identifies a significant number of experimentally determined non-canonical and non-conserved sites.
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