Evolution of the human-specific microRNA miR-941

Hai Yang Hu, Liu He, Kseniya Fominykh, Zheng Yan, Song Guo, Xiaoyu Zhang, Martin S. Taylor, Lin Tang, Jie Li, Jianmei Liu, Wen Wang, Haijing Yu, Philipp Khaitovich

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

86 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

MicroRNA-mediated gene regulation is important in many physiological processes. Here we explore the roles of a microRNA, miR-941, in human evolution. We find that miR-941 emerged de novo in the human lineage, between six and one million years ago, from an evolutionarily volatile tandem repeat sequence. Its copy-number remains polymorphic in humans and shows a trend for decreasing copy-number with migration out of Africa. Emergence of miR-941 was accompanied by accelerated loss of miR-941-binding sites, presumably to escape regulation. We further show that miR-941 is highly expressed in pluripotent cells, repressed upon differentiation and preferentially targets genes in hedgehog-and insulin-signalling pathways, thus suggesting roles in cellular differentiation. Human-specific effects of miR-941 regulation are detectable in the brain and affect genes involved in neurotransmitter signalling. Taken together, these results implicate miR-941 in human evolution, and provide an example of rapid regulatory evolution in the human linage.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1145
JournalNature Communications
Volume3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2012
Externally publishedYes

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