MicroRNAs (miRNAs) can group together along the human genome to form stable secondary structures made of several hairpins hosting miRNAs in their stems. The few known examples of such structures are all involved in cancer development. A large scale computational analysis of human chromosomes crossing sequence analysis and deep sequencing data revealed the presence of >400 structural clusters of miRNAs in the human genome. An a posteriori analysis validates predictions as bona fide miRNAs. A functional analysis of structural clusters position along the chromosomes co-localizes them with genes involved in several key cellular processes like immune systems, sensory systems, signal transduction and development. Immune systems diseases, infectious diseases and neurodegenerative diseases are characterized by genes that are especially well organized around structural clusters of miRNAs. Target genes functional analysis strongly supports a regulatory role of most predicted miRNAs and, notably, a strong involvement of predicted miRNAs in the regulation of cancer pathways. This analysis provides new fundamental insights on the genomic organization of miRNAs in human chromosomes.
Availability: The program, called MIReStruC (standing for ‘miRNA Structural Cluster’), has been implemented in bash, C, Awk and Python. It is available at the address http://www.ihes.fr/∼carbone/data9/.
- Mathelier A, Carbone A. (2013) Large scale chromosomal mapping of human microRNA structural clusters. Nucleic Acids Res [Epub ahead of print]. [article]