M. Rossbach Pages 361 - 368 ( 8 )
RNA interference (RNAi), an evolutionarily conserved sequence-specific post-transcriptional gene silencing mechanism, is triggered by double-stranded RNA (dsRNA) that results in the degradation of homologous mRNA or in the inhibition of mRNA translation. The naturally occurring triggers for the RNAi pathway are small regulatory RNAs, including small interfering RNAs (siRNAs), processed from longer dsRNAs by the RNAse III enzyme Dicer, and microRNAs (miRNAs), generated in a regulated multistep process from endogenous primary transcripts (pri-miRNA). These primary transcripts are capped, polyadenylated and spliced, thus resembling conventional mRNAs. It is estimated that miRNAs regulate more than one third of all cellular mRNAs, and bioinformatic data indicate that each miRNA can control hundreds of gene targets. Thus, there are likely to be few biological processes not regulated by miRNAs. Although the biological functions of miRNAs are not completely revealed, there is growing evidence that miRNA pathways are a new mechanism of gene regulation in both normal and diseased conditions. Recent evidence has shown that miRNA mutations or aberrant expression patterns correlate with various diseases, such as cancer, viral infections, cardiovascular or neurodegenerative diseases and indicates that miRNAs can function as tumor suppressors and oncogenes. MiRNAs have not only emerged as a powerful tool for gene regulation studies but also for the development of novel drugs. Since they do not encode proteins, they are not traditional therapeutic targets of small-molecule inhibitors and thus comprise a novel class of therapeutics. This article will focus on the current progress in drug discovery using the miRNA strategy.
RNAi, siRNA, miRNA, Dicer, cancer
Institute of Reconstructive Neurobiology, Sigmund-Freud Strabe-25, 53105 Bonn, Germany.