Dysregulation of miRNAs expression plays a critical role in the pathogenesis of genetic, multifactorial disorders and in human cancers. We exploited sequence, genomic and expression information to investigate two main aspects of post-transcriptional regulation in miRNA biogenesis, namely strand selection regulation and expression relationships between intragenic miRNAs and host genes. We considered miRNAs expression profiles, measured in five sizeable microarray datasets, including samples from different normal cell types and tissues, as well as different tumours and disease states. First, the study of expression profiles of “sister” miRNA pairs (miRNA/miRNA*, 5′ and 3′ strands of the same hairpin precursor) showed that the strand selection is highly regulated since it shows tissue-/cell-/condition-specific modulation. We used information about the direction and the strength of the strand selection bias to perform an unsupervised cluster analysis for the sample classification evidencing that is able to distinguish among different tissues, and sometimes between normal and malignant cells. Then, considering a minimum expression threshold, in few miRNA pairs only one mature miRNA is always present in all considered cell types, whereas the majority of pairs were concurrently expressed in some cell types and alternatively in others. In a significant fraction of concurrently expressed pairs, the major and the minor forms found at comparable levels may contribute to post-transcriptional gene silencing, possibly in a coordinate way. In the second part of the study, the behaved tendency to co-expression of intragenic miRNAs and their “host” mRNA genes was confuted by expression profiles examination, suggesting that the expression profile of a given host gene can hardly be a good estimator of co-transcribed miRNA(s) for post-transcriptional regulatory networks inference. Our results point out the regulatory importance of post-transcriptional phases of miRNAs biogenesis, reinforcing the role of such layer of miRNA biogenesis in miRNA-based regulation of cell activities
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