MicroRNA assassins: factors that regulate the disappearance of miRNAs.
MicroRNAs (miRNAs) control essential gene regulatory pathways in plants and animals. Serving as guides in silencing complexes, miRNAs direct Argonaute proteins to specific target messenger RNAs to repress protein expression. The mature, 22-nucleotide (nt) miRNA is the product of multiple processing steps, and recent studies have uncovered factors that directly control the stability of the functional RNA form. Although alteration of miRNA levels has been linked to numerous disease states, the mechanisms responsible for stabilized or reduced miRNA expression have been largely elusive. The discovery of specific cis-acting modifications and trans-acting proteins that affect miRNA half-life reveals new elements that contribute to the homeostasis of these vital regulatory molecules.