Widespread regulatory activity of vertebrate microRNA* species

Shiuan Yang, Michael D. Phillips, Doron Betel, Ping Mu, Andrea Ventura, Adam C. Siepel, Kevin C. Chen, Eric C. Lai

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

285 Scopus citations


An obligate intermediate during microRNA (miRNA) biogenesis is an ∼22-nucleotide RNA duplex, from which the mature miRNA is preferentially incorporated into a silencing complex. Its partner miRNA* species is generally regarded as a passenger RNA, whose regulatory capacity has not been systematically examined in vertebrates. Our bioinformatic analyses demonstrate that a substantial fraction of miRNA* species are stringently conserved over vertebrate evolution, collectively exhibit greatest conservation in their seed regions, and define complementary motifs whose conservation across vertebrate 3′-UTR evolution is statistically significant. Functional tests of 22 miRNA expression constructs revealed that a majority could repress both miRNA and miRNA* perfect match reporters, and the ratio of miRNA:miRNA* sensor repression was correlated with the endogenous ratio of miRNA:miRNA* reads. Analysis of microarray data provided transcriptome-wide evidence for the regulation of seedmatched targets for both mature and star strand species of several miRNAs relevant to oncogenesis, including mir-17, mir-34a, and mir-19. Finally, 3′-UTR sensor assays and mutagenesis tests confirmed direct repression of five miR-19* targets via star seed sites. Overall, our data demonstrate that miRNA* species have demonstrable impact on vertebrate regulatory networks and should be taken into account in studies of miRNA functions and their contribution to disease states. Published by Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)312-326
Number of pages15
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • 3′UTR
  • Post-transcriptional repression
  • microRNA

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology


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