Characterization of the microRNA pool and the factors affecting its regulatory potential†
The regulation of gene expression by microRNAs (miRNAs) is complex due to a number of variables involved. The potential for one miRNA to target many genes, the presence of multiple miRNA response elements (MREs) in one mRNA molecule and the interplay between RNAs that share common MREs each add a layer of complexity to the process; making it difficult to determine how regulation of gene expression by miRNAs works within the context of the system as a whole. In this study, we used luciferase report vectors inserted with different 3′UTR fragments as probes to detect the repressive effect of the miRNA pool on gene expression and uncovered some essential characteristics of gene regulation mediated by the miRNA pool, such as the nonlinear correlative relationship between the regulatory potential of a miRNA pool and the number of potential MREs, the buffering effect and the saturating effect of the miRNA pool, and the restrictive effect caused by the density of MREs. Through expressing gradient concentration of 3′UTR fragments, we indirectly detected the regulatory potential of the competing endogenous RNA (ceRNA) pool and analysed its effect on the regulatory potential of the miRNA pool. Our results provide some new insights into miRNA pool mediated gene regulation.