The genetic codes inscribed during two key developmental processes, namely gametogenesis and embryogenesis, are believed to determine subsequent development and survival of adult life. Once the embryo is formed, its further development mainly depends on its intrinsic characteristics, maternal environment (the endometrial receptivity), and the embryo–maternal interactions established during each phase of development. These developmental processes are under strict genetic regulation that could be manifested temporally and spatially depending on the physiological and developmental status of the cell. MicroRNAs (miRNAs), one of the small non-coding classes of RNAs, approximately 19–22 nucleotides in length, are one of the candidates for post-transcriptional developmental regulators. These tiny non-coding RNAs are expressed in ovarian tissue, granulosa cells, testis, oocytes, follicular fluid, and embryos and are implicated in diverse biological processes such as cell-to-cell communication. Moreover, accumulated evidences have also highlighted that miRNAs can be released into the extracellular environment through different mechanisms facilitating intercellular communication. Therefore, understanding miRNAs mediated regulatory mechanisms during gametogenesis and embryogenesis provides further insights about the molecular mechanisms underlying oocyte/sperm formation, early embryo development, and implantation. Thus, this review highlights the role of miRNAs in mammalian gametogenesis and embryogenesis and summarizes recent findings about miRNA-mediated post-transcriptional regulatory mechanisms occurring during early mammalian development.
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