Frontiers in Bioscience-Landmark (FBL) is published by IMR Press from Volume 26 Issue 5 (2021). Previous articles were published by another publisher on a subscription basis, and they are hosted by IMR Press on imrpress.com as a courtesy and upon agreement with Frontiers in Bioscience.
MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are approximately 22 nucleotide (nt) non-coding RNAs that participate in gene regulation. MiRNAs confer their regulation at a post-transcriptional level, where they either cleave or repress translation of mRNAs. Over 3000 identified mature miRNAs exist in species ranging from plants to humans, suggesting that they are ancient players in gene regulation. A relatively small number of miRNAs have been experimentally tested for their function. Of those tested, functions including cell differentiation, proliferation, apoptosis, anti-viral defense and cancer have been proposed. Improved software programs are now able to predict the targets of miRNAs in a more efficient manner, thus facilitating the elucidation of miRNA function. Furthermore, methods such as real-time PCR and microarray have been enhanced for studying miRNA expression. Using these tools, scientists are able to discover novel functions for miRNAs. It is possible that miRNAs will be revealed as having a role in virtually every aspect of gene regulation. This review guides readers through the biogenesis of miRNAs, their mechanism of action on their target mRNAs, the functional outcomes of their action on mRNAs and the current techniques to investigate these processes.