The hunting of targets: Challenge in miRNA research
Leukemia , Volume 27 - Issue 1 p. 16- 23
MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are small noncoding RNAs that control the expression of around 60% of the human protein-coding genes. In the past decade, deregulation of miRNAs (by expression and/or function) has been associated with the pathogenesis, progression and prognosis of different diseases, including leukemia. The number of discovered genes encoding miRNAs has risen exponentially in this period, but the numbers of miRNA-target genes discovered and validated lag far behind. Scientists have gained more in-depth knowledge of the basic mechanism of action of miRNAs, but the main challenge still remaining is the identification of direct targets of these important 'micro-players', to understand how they fine-tune so many biological processes in both healthy and diseased tissue. Many technologies have been developed in the past few years, some with more potential than others, but all with their own pros and cons. Here, we review the most common and most potent computational and experimental approaches for miRNA-target gene discovery and discuss how the hunting of targets is challenging but possible by taking the experimental limitations in consideration and choosing the correct cellular context for identifying relevant target genes.