We review the pertinent literature on methods used in high-throughput experimental identification of microRNA (miRNA) "targets" with emphasis on neurochemical studies. miRNAs are short regulatory noncoding RNAs that play important roles in the mammalian brain. The functions of miRNAs are related to their binding of RNAs including mRNAs. Since mammalian miRNAs tend to bind to target mRNAs via imperfect complementarity, understanding exactly which target mRNAs are recognized by which specific miRNAs is a challenge. Based on early experimental evidence, a set of "binding rules" for miRNAs has been described. These have focused on the 5' "seed" region of miRNAs binding to the 3' untranslated region of targeted mRNAs. Bioinformaticians have applied these algorithms for theoretical miRNA target prediction. To date, the different computational methods are not in agreement with each other and do not explain all miRNA targets as defined using high-throughput experimental methods. We consider these latter techniques which identify putative miRNA targets directly. Each experimental approach involves specific assumptions and potential technical pitfalls. Some of these direct experimental methods for miRNA target identification have used co-immunoprecipitation (RIP-Chip and others) and transfection-based experimental design. Topics related to experimentally identified miRNA targets are discussed, with special emphasis on studies pertinent to the mammalian brain.

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Published in Brain Research, v. 1338, p. 122-130.

Copyright © 2010 Elsevier B.V.

The copyright holder has granted the permission for posting the article here.

This manuscript version is made available under the CC-BY-NC-ND 4.0 license http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/.

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This study was supported by grants R01 NS061933, K08 NS050110, and P01-NS051220 from NIH, Bethesda, MD, and NIRG-08-89917 from the Alzheimer's Association.