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MicroRNAs and their roles in aging
Thalyana Smith-Vikos, Frank J. Slack


MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are a class of short non-coding RNAs that bind mRNAs through partial base-pair complementarity with their target genes, resulting in post-transcriptional repression of gene expression. The role of miRNAs in controlling aging processes has been uncovered recently with the discovery of miRNAs that regulate lifespan in the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans through insulin and insulin-like growth factor-1 signaling and DNA damage checkpoint factors. Furthermore, numerous miRNAs are differentially expressed during aging in C. elegans, but the specific functions of many of these miRNAs are still unknown. Recently, various miRNAs have been identified that are up- or down-regulated during mammalian aging by comparing their tissue-specific expression in younger and older mice. In addition, many miRNAs have been implicated in governing senescence in a variety of human cell lines, and the precise functions of some of these miRNAs in regulating cellular senescence have helped to elucidate mechanisms underlying aging. In this Commentary, we review the various regulatory roles of miRNAs during aging processes. We highlight how certain miRNAs can regulate aging on the level of organism lifespan, tissue aging or cellular senescence. Finally, we discuss future approaches that might be used to investigate the mechanisms by which miRNAs govern aging processes.


  • Funding

    T.S.-V. was supported by a National Institutes of Health Genomics and Proteomics Training Grant. This work was supported by the National Institutes of Health [grant number R01 AG0339201]. Deposited in PMC for release after 12 months.

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