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Four Micro RNAs Which Define Us as Humans

by Julia Samuel on  May 9, 2016 at 10:38 PM Genetics & Stem Cells News   - G J E 4
Compared to other great apes, human-specific variants of four microRNAs may have altered expression levels and gene targets, according to a study published in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Alicia Gallego from the Institute of Evolutionary Biology, Spain, and colleagues.
Four Micro RNAs Which Define Us as Humans
Four Micro RNAs Which Define Us as Humans
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MicroRNAs are post-transcriptional gene regulators known to be involved in almost every biological function. They are highly conserved among species and, while some differences exist, the effect of the variations is often unclear. The authors of the present study analysed over 1500 microRNAs to identify variations between humans and other great ape species, including orangutans, gorillas, bonobos and chimpanzees, and the possible effect of these variations on function.

‘Non-coding elements may play a role in shaping some traits that ultimately become human-specific.’
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The authors found that changes in the sequence and length of four microRNAs may be specific to humans. Two were highly expressed in brain tissue and may exert effects on genes with neural functions, while two exhibit restricted expression patterns that the authors posited implied a role in development. The authors also found that "age" might matter; in an evolutionary sense, "younger" microRNAs had less sequence conservation, expression and disease association, and were more isolated than "older" microRNAs.

The authors suggest this study may aid in our understanding of how non-coding elements may have played a role in shaping some traits that ultimately became human-specific. They also hope that it provides a framework to study the possible impact of these changes on recent human evolution.



Source: Eurekalert
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