MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are powerful regulators of gene expression. Although first discovered in worm larvae, miRNAs play fundamental biological roles-including in humans-well beyond development. MiRNAs participate in the regulation of metabolism (including lipid metabolism) for all animal species studied. A review of the fascinating and fast-growing literature on miRNA regulation of metabolism can be parsed into three main categories: (1) adipocyte biochemistry and cell fate determination; (2) regulation of metabolic biochemistry in invertebrates; and (3) regulation of metabolic biochemistry in mammals. Most research into the 'function' of a given miRNA in metabolic pathways has concentrated on a given miRNA acting upon a particular 'target' mRNA. Whereas in some biological contexts the effects of a given miRNA:mRNA pair may predominate, this might not be the case generally. In order to provide an example of how a single miRNA could regulate multiple 'target' mRNAs or even entire human metabolic pathways, we include a discussion of metabolic pathways that are predicted to be regulated by the miRNA paralogs, miR-103 and miR-107. These miRNAs, which exist in vertebrate genomes within introns of the pantothenate kinase (PANK) genes, are predicted by bioinformatics to affect multiple mRNA targets in pathways that involve cellular Acetyl-CoA and lipid levels. Significantly, PANK enzymes also affect these pathways, so the miRNA and 'host' gene may act synergistically. These predictions require experimental verification. In conclusion, a review of the literature on miRNA regulation of metabolism leads us believe that the future will provide researchers with many additional energizing revelations.
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Funding was provided by NIH K08 NS050110.
Wilfred, Bernard R.; Wang, Wang-Xia; and Nelson, Peter T., "Energizing miRNA Research: A Review of the Role of miRNAs in Lipid Metabolism, with a Prediction that miR-103/107 Regulates Human Metabolic Pathways" (2007). Sanders-Brown Center on Aging Faculty Publications. 104.