microRNA 21 also known as hsa-mir-21 or miRNA21 is a mammalian microRNA that is encoded by the MIR21gene.
MIRN21 was one of the first mammalian microRNAs identified. The mature miR-21 sequence is strongly conserved throughout evolution. The human microRNA-21 gene is located on plus strand of chromosome 17q23.2 (55273409–55273480) within a coding gene TMEM49 (also called vacuole membrane protein). Despite being located in intronic regions of a coding gene in the direction of transcription, it has its own promoter regions and forms a ~3433-nt long primary transcript of miR-21 (known as pri-miR-21) which is independently transcribed. The stem–loop recursor of miR-21(pre-miR-21) resides between nucleotides 2445 and 2516 of pri-miR-21.
Pri-miR-21 is cut by the endonuclease Drosha in the nucleus to produce pre-miR-21, which is exported into the cytosol. This pre-miR-21 is then cut into a short RNA duplex by Dicer in the cytosol. Although abundance of both strands is equal by transcription, only one strand (miR-21) is selected for processing as mature microRNA based on the thermodynamic stability of each end of the duplex, while the other strand (designated with an asterisk; miR-21*) is generally degraded. Mature microRNA is then loaded into microRNA ribonucleoprotein complex RISC (RNA-induced silencing complex) and guided to target mRNAs with near perfect complimentarily at 3’UTR.
miR-21 has been shown to play important role in development of heart disease. It is one of the microRNAs whose expression is increased in failing murine and human hearts. Further, inhibition of microRNAs in mice using chemically modified and cholesterol-conjugated miRNA inhibitors (antagomirs) was shown to inhibit interstitial fibrosis and improve cardiac function in a pressure- overload cardiac disease mice model. Surprisingly, miR-21 global knock-out mice did not show any overt phenotype when compared with wild type mice with respect to cardiac stress response. Similarly, short (8-nt) oligonucleotides designed to inhibit miR-21 could not inhibit cardiac hypertrophy or fibrosis. In another study with a mouse model of acute myocardial infarction, miR-21 expression was found to be significantly lower in infarcted areas and overexpression of miR-21 in those mice via adenovirus-mediated gene transfer decreased myocardial infarct size.
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