MicroRNA - rhinoceros in our glasshouse


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The dogma that DNA is translated to RNA and is exclusively translated to proteins is dead. Some (quite a few and still called redundant) bits of DNA encode short RNA that is never translated into proteins. However they interact/interfere with other RNA molecules that do encode proteins. By this action these RNAs, called microRNAs (miRNAs), lower or increase the expression of specific gene, by blocking its translation or enhancing its promoters. MiRNAs are the most abundant class of gene regulatory molecules in both animal and plant kingdoms. Each miRNA targets specific set of genes, regulates about 60% of genes and plays an important role in everything, from colour of the flowers, flowering time, hormonal and environmental responses in plants to developmental timing, maintenance of cell/tissue identity, immune responses, adhesion, migration, invasion and apoptosis. MiRNAs are very stable molecules and can withstand cooking, acid digestion, intestinal absorption and can circulate throughout the body in "microvesicles" for weeks. Recent publications show detection of plant miRNA in blood of animals and men. Moreover, rice miRNA called MIR168a is able to decrease expression of the gene, in the liver, which is critical for removing LDL cholesterol from the blood. This presentation will lead us through this maze that started 30 years ago with discovery of miRNA and is still in embryonic phase of understanding. It will show that, herbal medicines contain much more than minerals, vitamins and hard to pronounce chemicals to influence human health and diseases.

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