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Catalog of MicroRNA Seed Polymorphisms in Vertebrates
Published: Friday, January 27, 2012
Author: Minja Zorc et al.

by Minja Zorc, Dasa Jevsinek Skok, Irena Godnic, George Adrian Calin, Simon Horvat, Zhihua Jiang, Peter Dovc, Tanja Kunej

MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are a class of non-coding RNA that plays an important role in posttranscriptional regulation of mRNA. Evidence has shown that miRNA gene variability might interfere with its function resulting in phenotypic variation and disease susceptibility. A major role in miRNA target recognition is ascribed to complementarity with the miRNA seed region that can be affected by polymorphisms. In the present study, we developed an online tool for the detection of miRNA polymorphisms (miRNA SNiPer) in vertebrates ( and generated a catalog of miRNA seed region polymorphisms (miR-seed-SNPs) consisting of 149 SNPs in six species. Although a majority of detected polymorphisms were due to point mutations, two consecutive nucleotide substitutions (double nucleotide polymorphisms, DNPs) were also identified in nine miRNAs. We determined that miR-SNPs are frequently located within the quantitative trait loci (QTL), chromosome fragile sites, and cancer susceptibility loci, indicating their potential role in the genetic control of various complex traits. To test this further, we performed an association analysis between the mmu-miR-717 seed SNP rs30372501, which is polymorphic in a large number of standard inbred strains, and all phenotypic traits in these strains deposited in the Mouse Phenome Database. Analysis showed a significant association between the mmu-miR-717 seed SNP and a diverse array of traits including behavior, blood-clinical chemistry, body weight size and growth, and immune system suggesting that seed SNPs can indeed have major pleiotropic effects. The bioinformatics analyses, data and tools developed in the present study can serve researchers as a starting point in testing more targeted hypotheses and designing experiments using optimal species or strains for further mechanistic studies.