Enhancement of microRNA Research through Bioinformatics Tool Development
Prescott Deininger, Ph.D.
Tulane University, Cancer Center
Erik Flemington, Ph.D.
Tulane University, Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine
Pilot Project (May 1, 2010 – April 30, 2012)
MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are very small (approx. 20-22 nt) noncoding RNA molecules that regulate mRNA translation through binding to 7-8 base sequences of the respective 3’ UTRs. miRNAs have only recently been found to exist in higher eukaryotes. In the short time since this discovery, the profound significance that miRNAs have in pathway regulation, cell fate, differentiation, development and disease states such as cancer have already been well established. To date, most of the bioinformatics approaches in miRNA research are developed to tackle two major tasks, miRNA detection and miRNA target prediction. Compared to miRNA detection, computational miRNA target prediction are far more challenging due to the lack of strict sequence complementarity between miRNAs and their targets, as well as the scarcity of experimentally validated gene targets to guide algorithm design.