Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
To whom correspondence should be addressed. E-mail : whyoon(at).jhmi.edu
Since lin-4, a small RNA that regulates development of Caenorhabditis elegans, was identified, small RNAs called microRNAs (miRNAs) have been emerged to play critical roles in development of organisms (Lee et al., 1993). Development process is a series of reprogramming of gene regulatory network that become more complex as organisms develop. This complex and sophisticated nature of developmental program seems to be vulnerable to mutational events or environmental fluctuations. However, most of the organisms succeed to develop normally despite of complicated gene network. How do organisms acquire robustness of development? miRNAs can be one answer. miRNAs are able to be responsible for leading reliable development by modulating gene regulatory network. Some miRNAs play a role in genetic buffering by tuning intrinsic noises within genetic program during development. Other miRNAs can maintain the fidelity of fate decision program by eliminating target genes. Other miRNAs do not contribute to development significantly; however, some of them stabilize developmental programs from environmental fluctuation. In this review, I will discuss how miRNAs play a critical role in development in many different ways.
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