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Modulation and Evolution of Animal Development through microRNA Regulation of Gene Expression

Sir William Dunn School of Pathology, University of Oxford, South Parks Road, Oxford, OX1 3RE, UK
Department of Biological and Medical Sciences, Oxford Brookes University, Gipsy Lane, Oxford, OX3 0BP, UK
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Genes 2019, 10(4), 321;
Received: 5 March 2019 / Revised: 20 April 2019 / Accepted: 23 April 2019 / Published: 25 April 2019
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Evolutionary Genetics of Gene Expression)
PDF [879 KB, uploaded 26 April 2019]


microRNAs regulate gene expression by blocking the translation of mRNAs and/or promoting their degradation. They, therefore, play important roles in gene regulatory networks (GRNs) by modulating the expression levels of specific genes and can tune GRN outputs more broadly as part of feedback loops. These roles for microRNAs provide developmental buffering on one hand but can facilitate evolution of development on the other. Here we review how microRNAs can modulate GRNs during animal development as part of feedback loops and through their individual or combinatorial targeting of multiple different genes in the same network. We then explore how changes in the expression of microRNAs and consequently targets can facilitate changes in GRNs that alter development and lead to phenotypic evolution. The reviewed studies exemplify the key roles played by microRNAs in the regulation and evolution of gene expression during developmental processes in animals. View Full-Text
Keywords: microRNA; development; evolution; gene regulation microRNA; development; evolution; gene regulation

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Kittelmann, S.; McGregor, A.P. Modulation and Evolution of Animal Development through microRNA Regulation of Gene Expression. Genes 2019, 10, 321.

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