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A map of human microRNA variation uncovers unexpectedly high levels of variability

AuthorsCarbonell, José; Alloza, Eva; Arce, Pablo; Borrego, Salud CSIC ORCID; Santoyo, Javier; Ruiz-Ferrer, Macarena; Medina, Ignacio; Jiménez-Almazán, Jorge; Méndez-Vidal, Cristina CSIC ORCID; González-del Pozo, María; Vela, Alicia; Bhattacharya, Shom Shanker CSIC ORCID; Antiñolo, Guillermo CSIC ORCID; Dopazo, Joaquín
Issue Date24-Aug-2012
PublisherBioMed Central
CitationGenome Medicine 4(8): 62- (2012)
AbstractAbstract Background MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are key components of the gene regulatory network in many species. During the past few years, these regulatory elements have been shown to be involved in an increasing number and range of diseases. Consequently, the compilation of a comprehensive map of natural variability in a healthy population seems an obvious requirement for future research on miRNA-related pathologies. Methods Data on 14 populations from the 1000 Genomes Project were analyzed, along with new data extracted from 60 exomes of healthy individuals from a population from southern Spain, sequenced in the context of the Medical Genome Project, to derive an accurate map of miRNA variability. Results Despite the common belief that miRNAs are highly conserved elements, analysis of the sequences of the 1,152 individuals indicated that the observed level of variability is double what was expected. A total of 527 variants were found. Among these, 45 variants affected the recognition region of the corresponding miRNA and were found in 43 different miRNAs, 26 of which are known to be involved in 57 diseases. Different parts of the mature structure of the miRNA were affected to different degrees by variants, which suggests the existence of a selective pressure related to the relative functional impact of the change. Moreover, 41 variants showed a significant deviation from the Hardy-Weinberg equilibrium, which supports the existence of a selective process against some alleles. The average number of variants per individual in miRNAs was 28. Conclusions Despite an expectation that miRNAs would be highly conserved genomic elements, our study reports a level of variability comparable to that observed for coding genes.
Publisher version (URL)http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/gm363
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