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Miura, S., Nozawa, M., Nei, M. (2011). Evolutionary Changes of the Target Sites of Two MicroRNAs Encoded in the Hox Gene Cluster of Drosophila and Other Insect Species.  Genome Biol. Evol. 3(): 129--139.
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Research paper

MicroRNAs (miRs) are noncoding RNAs that regulate gene expression at the post-transcriptional level. In animals, the target sites of a miR are generally located in the 3' untranslated regions (UTRs) of messenger RNAs. However, how the target sites change during evolution is largely unknown. MiR-iab-4 and miR-iab-4as are known to regulate the expression of two Hox genes, Abd-A and Ubx, in Drosophila melanogaster. We have therefore studied the evolutionary changes of these two miR genes and their target sites of the Hox genes in Drosophila, other insect species, and Daphnia. Our homology search identified a single copy of each miR gene located in the same genomic position of the Hox gene cluster in all species examined. The seed nucleotide sequence was also the same for all species. Searching for the target sites in all Hox genes, we found several target sites of miR-iab-4 and miR-iab-4as in Antp in addition to Abd-A and Ubx in most insect species examined. Our phylogenetic analysis of target sites in Abd-A, Ubx, and Antp showed that the old target sites, which existed before the divergence of the 12 Drosophila species, have been well maintained in most species under purifying selection. By contrast, new target sites, which were generated during Drosophila evolution, were often lost in some species and mostly located in unalignable regions of the 3' UTRs. These results indicate that these regions can be a potential source of generating new target sites, which results in multiple target genes for each miR in animals.

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PMC3041157 (PMC) (EuropePMC)
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    Genome Biol. Evol.
    Genome biology and evolution
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