Conserved seed pairing, often flanked by adenosines, indicates that thousands of human genes are microRNA targets.
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.