DNA methylation directs microRNA biogenesis in mammalian cells

Ohad Glaich, Shivang Parikh, Rachel E. Bell, Keren Mekahel, Maya Donyo, Yodfat Leader, Ronna Shayevitch, Danna Sheinboim, Sivan Yannai, Dror Hollander, Ze’ev Melamed, Galit Lev-Maor, Gil Ast*, Carmit Levy

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

87 Scopus citations


MicroRNA (miRNA) biogenesis initiates co-transcriptionally, but how the Microprocessor machinery pinpoints the locations of short precursor miRNA sequences within long flanking regions of the transcript is not known. Here we show that miRNA biogenesis depends on DNA methylation. When the regions flanking the miRNA coding sequence are highly methylated, the miRNAs are more highly expressed, have greater sequence conservation, and are more likely to drive cancer-related phenotypes than miRNAs encoded by unmethylated loci. We show that the removal of DNA methylation from miRNA loci leads to their downregulation. Further, we found that MeCP2 binding to methylated miRNA loci halts RNA polymerase II elongation, leading to enhanced processing of the primary miRNA by Drosha. Taken together, our data reveal that DNA methylation directly affects miRNA biogenesis.

Original languageAmerican English
Article number5657
JournalNature Communications
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2019
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019, The Author(s).


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