Does base-pairing strength play a role in microRNA repression?

Ido Carmel, Noam Shomron, Yael Heifetz*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are short, single-stranded RNAs that silence gene expression by either degrading mRNA or repressing translation. Each miRNA regulates a specific set of mRNA "targets" by binding to complementary sequences in their 39 untranslated region. In this study, we examined the importance of the base-pairing strength of the miRNA-target duplex to repression. We hypothesized that if base-pairing strength affects the functionality of miRNA repression, organisms with higher body temperature or that live at higher temperatures will have miRNAs with higher G/C content so that the miRNA-target complex will remain stable. In the nine model organisms examined, we found a significant correlation between the average G/C content of miRNAs and physiological temperature, supporting our hypothesis. Next, for each organism examined, we compared the average G/C content of miRNAs that are conserved among distant organisms and that of miRNAs that are evolutionarily recent. We found that the average G/C content of ancient miRNAs is lower than recent miRNAs in homeotherms, whereas the trend was inversed in poikilotherms, suggesting that G/C content is associated with temperature, thus further supporting our hypothesis. In the organisms examined, the average G/C content of miRNA "seed" sequences was higher than that of mature miRNAs, which was higher than pre-miRNA loops, suggesting an association between the degree of functionality of the sequence and its average G/C content. Our analyses show a possible association between the base-pairing strength of miRNA-targets and the temperature of an organism, suggesting that base-pairing strength plays a role in repression by miRNAs.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)1947-1956
Number of pages10
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2012


  • Base-pairing strength
  • G/C content
  • Homeotherms
  • MicroRNA
  • Poikilotherms


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