Special Issue "Regulatory Functions of microRNAs"

A special issue of Cells (ISSN 2073-4409).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: 31 October 2019.

Special Issue Editors

Dr. Giorgio Malpeli
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Department of Surgical Science, Dentistry, Gynecology and Pediatrics, University of Verona, Verona, Italy
Interests: epigenetics; DNA methylation; microRNAs; transcription regulation; stem cells; cell differentiation; pancreatic cancer
Prof. Dr. Y-h. Taguchi
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Department of Physics, Chuo University, Tokyo 112-8551, Japan
Interests: Bioinformatics; Gene expression analysis; feature selection; tensor decomposition
Special Issues and Collections in MDPI journals

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

MicroRNAs (miRNAs), short non-coding RNAs, have been shown to be involved in all cellular processes and in the pathogenesis of many human disorders, ranging from cancers to autoimmune diseases. However, the role of miRNAs in its detailed mechanisms concerning the initiation and progression of these diseases is still mostly uncharacterized. Therefore, researchers describe their mechanisms of actions, expression patterns and cellular pathways in which they are especially important. This Special Issue seeks reviews and original papers covering a wide range of topics related to microRNA biology, such as miRNA therapeutics, miRNA regulation in various disorders (cancer, metabolism, autoimmunity or others), interactions between miRNAs and target genes, pathway analyses, and other related topics. Studies involving non-human organisms are also welcome.

Dr. Giorgio Malpeli
Prof. Y-h. Taguchi
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

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Keywords

  • miRNA regulation
  • biomarker
  • pathway analysis
  • cancer
  • metabolism and diabetes
  • autoimmunity
  • aging
  • target genes
  • expression patterns

Published Papers (13 papers)

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Research

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Open AccessArticle
Understanding the Modus Operandi of MicroRNA Regulatory Clusters
Cells 2019, 8(9), 1103; https://doi.org/10.3390/cells8091103 - 18 Sep 2019
Abstract
MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are non-coding RNAs that regulate a wide range of biological pathways by post-transcriptionally modulating gene expression levels. Given that even a single miRNA may simultaneously control several genes enrolled in multiple biological functions, one would expect that these tiny RNAs have [...] Read more.
MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are non-coding RNAs that regulate a wide range of biological pathways by post-transcriptionally modulating gene expression levels. Given that even a single miRNA may simultaneously control several genes enrolled in multiple biological functions, one would expect that these tiny RNAs have the ability to properly sort among distinctive cellular processes to drive protein production. To test this hypothesis, we scrutinized previously published microarray datasets and clustered protein-coding gene expression profiles according to the intensity of fold-change levels caused by the exogenous transfection of 10 miRNAs (miR-1, miR-7, miR-9, miR-124, miR-128a, miR-132, miR-133a, miR-142, miR-148b, miR-181a) in a human cell line. Through an in silico functional enrichment analysis, we discovered non-randomic regulatory patterns, proper of each cluster identified. We demonstrated that miRNAs are capable of equivalently modulate the expression signatures of target genes in regulatory clusters according to the biological function they are assigned to. Moreover, target prediction analysis applied to ten vertebrate species, suggest that such miRNA regulatory modus operandi is evolutionarily conserved within vertebrates. Overall, we discovered a complex regulatory cluster-module strategy driven by miRNAs, which relies on the controlled intensity of the repression over distinct targets under specific biological contexts. Our discovery helps to clarify the mechanisms underlying the functional activity of miRNAs and makes it easier to take the fastest and most accurate path in the search for the functions of miRNAs in any distinct biological process of interest. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Regulatory Functions of microRNAs)
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Open AccessArticle
miR-263b Controls Circadian Behavior and the Structural Plasticity of Pacemaker Neurons by Regulating the LIM-Only Protein Beadex
Cells 2019, 8(8), 923; https://doi.org/10.3390/cells8080923 - 18 Aug 2019
Abstract
: Circadian clocks drive rhythmic physiology and behavior to allow adaption to daily environmental changes. In Drosophila, the small ventral lateral neurons (sLNvs) are primary pacemakers that control circadian rhythms. Circadian changes are observed in the dorsal axonal projections of the sLNvs, [...] Read more.
: Circadian clocks drive rhythmic physiology and behavior to allow adaption to daily environmental changes. In Drosophila, the small ventral lateral neurons (sLNvs) are primary pacemakers that control circadian rhythms. Circadian changes are observed in the dorsal axonal projections of the sLNvs, but their physiological importance and the underlying mechanism are unclear. Here, we identified miR-263b as an important regulator of circadian rhythms and structural plasticity of sLNvs in Drosophila. Depletion of miR-263b (miR-263bKO) in flies dramatically impaired locomotor rhythms under constant darkness. Indeed, miR-263b is required for the structural plasticity of sLNvs. miR-263b regulates circadian rhythms through inhibition of expression of the LIM-only protein Beadex (Bx). Consistently, overexpression of Bx or loss-of-function mutation (BxhdpR26) phenocopied miR-263bKO and miR-263b overexpression in behavior and molecular characteristics. In addition, mutating the miR-263b binding sites in the Bx 3′ UTR using CRISPR/Cas9 recapitulated the circadian phenotypes of miR-263bKO flies. Together, these results establish miR-263b as an important regulator of circadian locomotor behavior and structural plasticity. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Regulatory Functions of microRNAs)
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Open AccessArticle
MiR-200-3p Is Potentially Involved in Cell Cycle Arrest by Regulating Cyclin A during Aestivation in Apostichopus japonicus
Cells 2019, 8(8), 843; https://doi.org/10.3390/cells8080843 - 06 Aug 2019
Abstract
The sea cucumber (Apostichopus japonicus) has become a good model organism for studying environmentally induced aestivation in marine invertebrates. We hypothesized that mechanisms that arrest energy-expensive cell cycle activity would contribute significantly to establishing the hypometabolic state during aestivation. Cyclin A [...] Read more.
The sea cucumber (Apostichopus japonicus) has become a good model organism for studying environmentally induced aestivation in marine invertebrates. We hypothesized that mechanisms that arrest energy-expensive cell cycle activity would contribute significantly to establishing the hypometabolic state during aestivation. Cyclin A is a core and particularly interesting cell cycle regulator that functions in both the S phase and in mitosis. In the present study, negative relationships between miR-200-3p and AjCA expressions were detected at both the transcriptional and the translational levels during aestivation in A. japonicus. Dual-luciferase reporter assays confirmed the targeted location of the miR-200-3p binding site within the AjCA gene transcript. Furthermore, gain- and loss-of-function experiments were conducted in vivo with sea cucumbers to verify the interaction between miR-200-3p and AjCA in intestine tissue by qRT-PCR and Western blotting. The results show that the overexpression of miR-200-3p mimics suppressed AjCA transcript levels and translated protein production, whereas transfection with a miR-200-3p inhibitor enhanced both AjCA mRNA and AjCA protein in A. japonicus intestine. Our findings suggested a potential mechanism that reversibly arrests cell cycle progression during aestivation, which may center on miR-200-3p inhibitory control over the translation of cyclin A mRNA transcripts. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Regulatory Functions of microRNAs)
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Open AccessArticle
Differential Inhibition of Target Gene Expression by Human microRNAs
Cells 2019, 8(8), 791; https://doi.org/10.3390/cells8080791 - 30 Jul 2019
Abstract
microRNAs (miRNAs) exert their functions by repressing the expression of their target genes, but most miRNA target genes are unknown, and the degree to which a miRNA differentially inhibits the expression of its targets is underappreciated. We selected human miR-1, miR-122, and miR-124 [...] Read more.
microRNAs (miRNAs) exert their functions by repressing the expression of their target genes, but most miRNA target genes are unknown, and the degree to which a miRNA differentially inhibits the expression of its targets is underappreciated. We selected human miR-1, miR-122, and miR-124 as representatives to investigate the reliability of miRNA target predictions and examine how miRNAs suppress their targets. We constructed miRNA target gene reporter libraries based on prediction programs TargetScan, miRanda, and PicTar, and performed large-scale reporter assays to directly evaluate whether and how strongly a predicted target gene is repressed by its miRNA. We then performed statistical analyses to examine parameters that contributed to the miRNA inhibition of target genes. We found that the three programs have approximately 72–85% success rates in predicting genuine targets and that the miRNA inhibition of different targets varies in extent. We also identified parameters that could predict the degrees of miRNA repression, and further showed that differential miR-124 repression might contribute to differential gene expression in vivo. Our studies systematically investigated hundreds of miRNA target genes, shed light on factors influencing miRNA functions, and suggested a new mechanism by which differential target repression by miRNAs regulates endogenous gene expression. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Regulatory Functions of microRNAs)
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Open AccessArticle
Physical Exercise Modulates miR-21-5p, miR-129-5p, miR-378-5p, and miR-188-5p Expression in Progenitor Cells Promoting Osteogenesis
Cells 2019, 8(7), 742; https://doi.org/10.3390/cells8070742 - 19 Jul 2019
Abstract
Physical exercise is known to promote beneficial effects on overall health, counteracting risks related to degenerative diseases. MicroRNAs (miRNAs), short non-coding RNAs affecting the expression of a cell’s transcriptome, can be modulated by different stimuli. Yet, the molecular effects on osteogenic differentiation triggered [...] Read more.
Physical exercise is known to promote beneficial effects on overall health, counteracting risks related to degenerative diseases. MicroRNAs (miRNAs), short non-coding RNAs affecting the expression of a cell’s transcriptome, can be modulated by different stimuli. Yet, the molecular effects on osteogenic differentiation triggered by miRNAs upon physical exercise are not completely understood. In this study, we recruited 20 male amateur runners participating in a half marathon. Runners’ sera, collected before (PRE RUN) and after (POST RUN) the run, were added to cultured human mesenchymal stromal cells. We then investigated their effects on the modulation of selected miRNAs and the consequential effects on osteogenic differentiation. Our results showed an increased expression of miRNAs promoting osteogenic differentiation (miR-21-5p, miR-129-5p, and miR-378-5p) and a reduced expression of miRNAs involved in the adipogenic differentiation of progenitor cells (miR-188-5p). In addition, we observed the downregulation of PTEN and SMAD7 expression along with increased AKT/pAKT and SMAD4 protein levels in MSCs treated with POST RUN sera. The consequent upregulation of RUNX2 expression was also proven, highlighting the molecular mechanisms by which miR-21-5p promotes osteogenic differentiation. In conclusion, our work proposes novel data, which demonstrate how miRNAs may regulate the osteogenic commitment of progenitor cells in response to physical exercise. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Regulatory Functions of microRNAs)
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Open AccessArticle
Identifying microRNAs and Their Editing Sites in Macaca mulatta
Cells 2019, 8(7), 682; https://doi.org/10.3390/cells8070682 - 05 Jul 2019
Abstract
MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are small non-coding RNAs that are critical in post-transcriptional regulation. Macaca mulatta is an important nonhuman primate that is often used in basic and translational researches. However, the annotation of miRNAs in Macaca mulatta is far from complete, and there are [...] Read more.
MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are small non-coding RNAs that are critical in post-transcriptional regulation. Macaca mulatta is an important nonhuman primate that is often used in basic and translational researches. However, the annotation of miRNAs in Macaca mulatta is far from complete, and there are no reports of miRNA editing events in Macaca mulatta, although editing may affect the biogenesis or functions of the miRNAs. To improve miRNA annotation and to reveal editing events of miRNAs in Macaca mulatta, we generated 12 small RNA profiles from eight tissues and performed comprehensive analysis of these profiles. We identified 479 conserved pre-miRNAs that have not been reported in Macaca mulatta and 17 species specific miRNAs. Furthermore, we identified 3386 editing sites with significant editing levels from 471 pre-miRNAs after analyzing the 12 self-generated and 58 additional published sRNA-seq profiles from 17 different types of organs or tissues. In addition to 16 conserved A-to-I editing sites, we identified five conserved C-to-U editing sites in miRNAs of Macaca mulatta and Homo sapiens. We also identified 11 SNPs in the miRNAs of Macaca mulatta. The analysis of the potential targets of 69 miRNAs with editing or mutation events in their seed regions suggest that these editing or mutation events severely changed their targets and their potential functions. These results significantly increase our understanding of miRNAs and their mutation/editing events in Macaca mulatta. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Regulatory Functions of microRNAs)
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Open AccessArticle
The Inhibition on MDFIC and PI3K/AKT Pathway Caused by miR-146b-3p Triggers Suppression of Myoblast Proliferation and Differentiation and Promotion of Apoptosis
Cells 2019, 8(7), 656; https://doi.org/10.3390/cells8070656 - 29 Jun 2019
Abstract
Accumulating studies report that microRNAs (miRNAs) are actively involved in skeletal myogenesis. Previously, our study revealed that miR-146b-3p was related to the growth of skeletal muscle. Here, we further report that miR-146b-3p is essential for the proliferation, differentiation, and apoptosis of chicken myoblast. [...] Read more.
Accumulating studies report that microRNAs (miRNAs) are actively involved in skeletal myogenesis. Previously, our study revealed that miR-146b-3p was related to the growth of skeletal muscle. Here, we further report that miR-146b-3p is essential for the proliferation, differentiation, and apoptosis of chicken myoblast. Elevated expression of miR-146b-3p can dramatically suppress proliferation and differentiation, and facilitate apoptosis of chicken myoblast. Besides, we identified two target genes of miR-146b-3p, AKT1 and MDFIC, and found that miR-146b-3p can inhibit the PI3K/AKT pathway. Our study also showed that both AKT1 and MDFIC can promote the proliferation and differentiation while inhibit the apoptosis of myoblast in chicken. Overall, our results demonstrate that miR-146b-3p, directly suppressing PI3K/AKT pathway and MDFIC, acts in the proliferation, differentiation, and apoptosis of myoblast in chicken. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Regulatory Functions of microRNAs)
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Open AccessArticle
miR-26a-5p is a Stable Reference Gene for miRNA Studies in Chondrocytes from Developing Human Cartilage
Cells 2019, 8(6), 631; https://doi.org/10.3390/cells8060631 - 22 Jun 2019
Abstract
miRNAs are emerging as key regulators of complex biological systems in several developmental processes. qRT-PCR is a powerful tool to quantitatively assess the profiles and modulation of miRNA expression. In the emerging field of cartilage maturation studies, from precursor to hypertrophic chondrocytes, few [...] Read more.
miRNAs are emerging as key regulators of complex biological systems in several developmental processes. qRT-PCR is a powerful tool to quantitatively assess the profiles and modulation of miRNA expression. In the emerging field of cartilage maturation studies, from precursor to hypertrophic chondrocytes, few data about miRNA regulation are available, and no consensus on the best reference gene (RG) has been reached. This is a crucial pitfall since reliable outcomes depend on proper data normalization. The aim of this work was to identify reliable and stable miRNA RGs, basing the analysis on available high throughput qRT-PCR miRNA data (from the NCBI Gene Expression Omnibus database, GSE49152) obtained from human embryonic cartilage tissues enriched in the precursor, differentiated, and hypertrophic chondrocytes. Four normalization approaches were used, and the stability was quantified by combining BestKeeper, delta-Ct, geNorm, and NormFinder statistical tools. An integrated approach allowed to identify miR-26a-5p as the most stable RG and miR-212-3p as the worst one. RNU44, used in original dataset analysis, performed as second best RG. Applications of different normalization strategies significantly impacted the profiles and modulation of miRNA expression. Herein presented results point out the crucial need of a consensus on data normalization studies aimed at dissecting miRNA role in human cartilage development, to avoid the postulation of unreliable biological conclusions. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Regulatory Functions of microRNAs)
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Open AccessArticle
MiR-34b-5p Mediates the Proliferation and Differentiation of Myoblasts by Targeting IGFBP2
Cells 2019, 8(4), 360; https://doi.org/10.3390/cells8040360 - 17 Apr 2019
Cited by 1
Abstract
As key post-transcriptional regulators, microRNAs (miRNAs) play an indispensable role in skeletal muscle development. Our previous study suggested that miR-34b-5p and IGFBP2 could have a potential role in skeletal muscle growth. Our goal in this study is to explore the function and regulatory [...] Read more.
As key post-transcriptional regulators, microRNAs (miRNAs) play an indispensable role in skeletal muscle development. Our previous study suggested that miR-34b-5p and IGFBP2 could have a potential role in skeletal muscle growth. Our goal in this study is to explore the function and regulatory mechanism of miR-34b-5p and IGFBP2 in myogenesis. In this study, the dual-luciferase reporter assay and Western blot analysis showed that IGFBP2 is a direct target of miR-34b-5p. Flow cytometric analysis and EdU assay showed that miR-34b-5p could repress the cell cycle progression of myoblasts, and miR-34b-5p could promote the formation of myotubes by promoting the expression of MyHC. On the contrary, the overexpression of IGFBP2 significantly facilitated the proliferation of myoblasts and hampered the formation of myotubes. Together, our results indicate that miR-34b-5p could mediate the proliferation and differentiation of myoblasts by targeting IGFBP2. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Regulatory Functions of microRNAs)
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Review

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Open AccessReview
MicroRNAs as a Potential Quality Measurement Tool of Platelet Concentrate Stored in Blood Banks—A Review
Cells 2019, 8(10), 1256; https://doi.org/10.3390/cells8101256 - 15 Oct 2019
Abstract
Background: Platelet concentrate (PC) is one of the main products used in a therapeutic transfusion. This blood component requires special storage at blood banks, however, even under good storage conditions, modifications or degradations may occur and are known as platelet storage lesions. Methods: [...] Read more.
Background: Platelet concentrate (PC) is one of the main products used in a therapeutic transfusion. This blood component requires special storage at blood banks, however, even under good storage conditions, modifications or degradations may occur and are known as platelet storage lesions. Methods: This research was performed on scientific citation databases PubMed/Medline, ScienceDirect, and Web of Science, for publications containing platelet storage lesions. The results obtained mainly reveal the clinical applicability of miRNAs as biomarkers of storage injury and as useful tools for a problem affecting public and private health, the lack of PC bags in countries with few blood donors. The major studies listed in this review identified miRNAs associated with important platelet functions that are relevant in clinical practice as quality biomarkers of PC, such as miR-223, miR-126, miR-10a, miR-150, miR-16, miR-21, miR-326, miR-495, let-7b, let-7c, let-7e, miR-107, miR-10b, miR-145, miR-155, miR-17, miR-191, miR-197, miR-200b, miR-24, miR-331, miR-376. These miRNAs can be used in blood banks to identify platelet injury in PC bags. Conclusion: The studies described in this review relate the functions of miRNAs with molecular mechanisms that result in functional platelet differences, such as apoptosis. Thus, miRNA profiles can be used to measure the quality of storage PC for more than 5 days, identify bags with platelet injury, and distinguish those with functional platelets. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Regulatory Functions of microRNAs)
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Open AccessReview
The MicroRNA Centrism in the Orchestration of Neuroinflammation in Neurodegenerative Diseases
Cells 2019, 8(10), 1193; https://doi.org/10.3390/cells8101193 - 02 Oct 2019
Abstract
MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are small non-coding RNAs with a unique ability to regulate the transcriptomic profile by binding to complementary regulatory RNA sequences. The ability of miRNAs to enhance (proinflammatory miRNAs) or restrict (anti-inflammatory miRNAs) inflammatory signalling within the central nervous system is an [...] Read more.
MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are small non-coding RNAs with a unique ability to regulate the transcriptomic profile by binding to complementary regulatory RNA sequences. The ability of miRNAs to enhance (proinflammatory miRNAs) or restrict (anti-inflammatory miRNAs) inflammatory signalling within the central nervous system is an area of ongoing research, particularly in the context of disorders that feature neuroinflammation, including neurodegenerative diseases (NDDs). Furthermore, the discovery of competing endogenous RNAs (ceRNAs) has led to an increase in the complexity of miRNA-mediated gene regulation, with a paradigm shift from a unidirectional to a bidirectional regulation, where miRNA acts as both a regulator and is regulated by ceRNAs. Increasing evidence has revealed that ceRNAs, including long non-coding RNAs, circular RNAs, and pseudogenes, can act as miRNA sponges to regulate neuroinflammation in NDDs within complex cross-talk regulatory machinery, which is referred to as ceRNA network (ceRNET). In this review, we discuss the role of miRNAs in neuroinflammatory regulation and the manner in which cellular and vesicular ceRNETs could influence neuroinflammatory dynamics in complex multifactorial diseases, such as NDDs. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Regulatory Functions of microRNAs)
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Open AccessReview
MicroRNAs in Obesity and Related Metabolic Disorders
Cells 2019, 8(8), 859; https://doi.org/10.3390/cells8080859 - 09 Aug 2019
Abstract
Metabolic disorders are characterized by the inability to properly use and/or store energy. The burdens of metabolic disease, such as obesity or diabetes, are believed to arise through a complex interplay between genetics and epigenetics predisposition, environment and nutrition. Therefore, understanding the molecular [...] Read more.
Metabolic disorders are characterized by the inability to properly use and/or store energy. The burdens of metabolic disease, such as obesity or diabetes, are believed to arise through a complex interplay between genetics and epigenetics predisposition, environment and nutrition. Therefore, understanding the molecular mechanisms for the onset of metabolic disease will provide new insights for prevention and treatment. There is growing concern about the dysregulation of micro-RNAs (miRNAs) in metabolic diseases. MiRNAs are short non-coding RNA molecules that post-transcriptionally repress the expression of genes by binding to untranslated regions and coding sequences of the target mRNAs. This review aims to provide recent data about the potential involvement of miRNAs in metabolic diseases, particularly obesity and type 2 diabetes. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Regulatory Functions of microRNAs)
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Open AccessReview
MicroRNAs as Potential Pharmaco-Targets in Ischemia-Reperfusion Injury Compounded by Diabetes
Cells 2019, 8(2), 152; https://doi.org/10.3390/cells8020152 - 12 Feb 2019
Cited by 1
Abstract
Background: Ischemia-Reperfusion (I/R) injury is the tissue damage that results from re-oxygenation of ischemic tissues. There are many players that contribute to I/R injury. One of these factors is the family of microRNAs (miRNAs), which are currently being heavily studied. This review aims [...] Read more.
Background: Ischemia-Reperfusion (I/R) injury is the tissue damage that results from re-oxygenation of ischemic tissues. There are many players that contribute to I/R injury. One of these factors is the family of microRNAs (miRNAs), which are currently being heavily studied. This review aims to critically summarize the latest papers that attributed roles of certain miRNAs in I/R injury, particularly in diabetic conditions and dissect their potential as novel pharmacologic targets in the treatment and management of diabetes. Methods: PubMed was searched for publications containing microRNA and I/R, in the absence or presence of diabetes. All papers that provided sufficient evidence linking miRNA with I/R, especially in the context of diabetes, were selected. Several miRNAs are found to be either pro-apoptotic, as in the case of miR-34a, miR-144, miR-155, and miR-200, or anti-apoptotic, as in the case of miR-210, miR-21, and miR-146a. Here, we further dissect the evidence that shows diverse cell-context dependent effects of these miRNAs, particularly in cardiomyocytes, endothelial, or leukocytes. We also provide insight into cases where the possibility of having two miRNAs working together to intensify a given response is noted. Conclusions: This review arrives at the conclusion that the utilization of miRNAs as translational agents or pharmaco-targets in treating I/R injury in diabetic patients is promising and becoming increasingly clearer. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Regulatory Functions of microRNAs)
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