MicroRNAs of the immune system: Roles in inflammation and cancer
MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are small noncoding RNAs that regulate gene expression by binding to complementary target mRNAs and either promoting their decay or inhibiting their translation. Most eukaryotic genomes studied encode miRNAs, which are processed from longer noncoding transcripts through pathways conserved from fungi to plants to animals. miRNAs are now understood to be key mediators of developmental transitions in a number of model organisms. With respect to the immune system, miRNAs affect all facets of immune system development, from hematopoiesis to activation in response to infection during both the innate and the adaptive immune response. At the same time, miRNA dysregulation is a central event in the development and pathophysiology of a number of cancers of the immune system. Here we will discuss our current understanding of this general regulatory mechanism, focusing on its involvement in inflammation and in oncogenesis.