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Probing the Limits to MicroRNA-Mediated Control of Gene Expression

Abstract : According to the 'ceRNA hypothesis', microRNAs (miRNAs) may act as mediators of an effective positive interaction between long coding or non-coding RNA molecules, carrying significant potential implications for a variety of biological processes. Here, inspired by recent work providing a quantitative description of small regulatory elements as information-conveying channels, we characterize the effectiveness of miRNA-mediated regulation in terms of the optimal information flow achievable between modulator (transcription factors) and target nodes (long RNAs). Our findings show that, while a sufficiently large degree of target dere-pression is needed to activate miRNA-mediated transmission, (a) in case of differential mechanisms of complex processing and/or transcriptional capabilities, regulation by a post-transcriptional miRNA-channel can outperform that achieved through direct transcriptional control; moreover, (b) in the presence of large populations of weakly interacting miRNA molecules the extra noise coming from titration disappears, allowing the miRNA-channel to process information as effectively as the direct channel. These observations establish the limits of miRNA-mediated post-transcriptional cross-talk and suggest that, besides providing a degree of noise buffering, this type of control may be effectively employed in cells both as a failsafe mechanism and as a preferential fine tuner of gene expression, pointing to the specific situations in which each of these functionalities is maximized.
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Araks Martirosyan, Matteo Figliuzzi, Enzo Marinari, Andrea de Martino. Probing the Limits to MicroRNA-Mediated Control of Gene Expression. PLoS Computational Biology, Public Library of Science, 2016, 12 (1), pp.e1004715. ⟨10.1371/journal.pcbi.1004715⟩. ⟨hal-01527410⟩

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