MicroRNAs are small, noncoding, RNAs known for their powerful modulation of molecular processes, making them a major focus for studying pathological mechanisms. The human miR-146 family of microRNAs consists of two member genes, MIR146A and MIR146B. These two microRNAs are located on different chromosomes and exhibit differential regulation in many cases. However, they are nearly identical in sequence, sharing a seed region, and are thus predicted to target the same set of genes. A large proportion of the microRNA (miR)-146 literature focuses on its role in regulating the innate immune response in the context of various pathologies by modulating two widely studied target genes in the toll-like receptor signaling cascade. A growing subset of the literature reports a role of miR-146 in cardiovascular and renal disease, and data suggest there is exciting potential for miR-146 as a diagnostic and therapeutic target. Nevertheless, the published literature is confounded by unclear and imprecise language concerning the specific effects of the two miR-146 family members. The present review will compare the genomic origin and regulation of miR-146a and miR-146b, discuss some approaches to overcome analytical and experimental challenges, and summarize findings in major areas of miR-146 research. Moving forward, careful evaluation of miR-146a/b specificity in analytical and experimental approaches will aid researchers in elucidating the functional relevance of differential regulation of the miR-146 family members in health and disease.
- Copyright © 2017 the American Physiological Society
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