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This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
During microRNA (miRNA) maturation in humans and flies, Drosha and Dicer cut the precursor transcript, thereby producing a short RNA duplex. One strand of this duplex becomes a functional component of the RNA-Induced Silencing Complex (RISC), while the other is eliminated. While thermodynamic asymmetry of the duplex ends appears to play a decisive role in the strand selection process, the details of the selection mechanism are not yet understood.
Here, we assess miRNA strand selection bias in humans and fruit flies by analyzing the sequence composition and relative expression levels of the two strands of the precursor duplex in these species. We find that the sequence elements associated with preferential miRNA strand selection and/or rejection differ between the two species. Further, we identify another feature that distinguishes human and fly miRNA processing machinery: the relative accuracy of the Drosha and Dicer enzymes.
Our result provides clues to the mechanistic aspects of miRNA strand selection in humans and other mammals. Further, it indicates that human and fly miRNA processing pathways are more distinct than currently recognized. Finally, the observed strand selection determinants are instrumental in the rational design of efficient miRNA-based expression regulators.