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Open Access Highly Accessed Review

MicroRNAs: an emerging science in cancer epigenetics

Rishabh Kala1, Gregory W Peek1, Tabitha M Hardy1 and Trygve O Tollefsbol12345*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Biology, University of Alabama Birmingham, 1300 University Boulevard, Birmingham, AL 35294, USA

2 Center for Aging, University of Alabama Birmingham, 1530 3rd Avenue South, Birmingham, AL 35294, USA

3 Comprehensive Cancer Center, University of Alabama Birmingham, 1802 6th Avenue South, Birmingham, AL 35294, USA

4 Nutrition Obesity Research Center, University ofs Alabama Birmingham, 1675 University Boulevard, Birmingham, AL 35294, USA

5 Comprehensive Diabetes Center, University of Alabama Birmingham, 1825 University Boulevard, Birmingham, AL 35294, USA

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Journal of Clinical Bioinformatics 2013, 3:6  doi:10.1186/2043-9113-3-6

Published: 16 March 2013

Abstract

MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are remarkable molecules that appear to have a fundamental role in the biology of the cell. They constitute a class of non-protein encoding RNA molecules which have now emerged as key players in regulating the activity of mRNA. miRNAs are small RNAmolecules around 22 nucleotides in length, which affect the activity of specific mRNA, directly degrading it and/or preventing its translation into protein. The science of miRNAs holds them as candidate biomarkers for the early detection and management of cancer. There is also considerable excitement for the use of miRNAs as a novel class of therapeutic targets and as a new class of therapeutic agents for the treatment of cancers. From a clinical perspective, miRNAs can induce a number of effects and may have a diverse application in biomedical research. This review highlights the general mode of action of miRNAs, their biogenesis, the effect of diet on miRNA expression and the impact of miRNAs on cancer epigenetics and drug resistance in various cancers. Further we also provide emphasis on bioinformatics software which can be used to determine potential targets of miRNAs.

Keywords:
miRNA; Biogenesis; Diet; Cancer epigenetics; Bioinformatics software