MicroRNA evolution put to the test

Two Nature Genetics papers probe evolution and functionality of microRNAs and their target sites

Jeffrey M. Perkel
Oct 29, 2006
MicroRNA genes and their target sites are under Darwinian selection and continue to evolve, according to a pair of papers out this week in Nature Genetics. Nikolaus Rajewsky used genotyping data to show that predicted microRNA target sites are under negative Darwinian pressure, while Ronald Plasterk used a massively parallel sequencing approach to identify several hundred candidate microRNAs, many of which are restricted to humans, primates, or vertebrates in general. "My reaction is, this is why we put the genomes out there," said Bob Waterston, chair and professor of genome sciences at the University of Washington, who helped generate many of the genome sequences used in the Plasterk paper. "You can see these papers taking advantage of the wealth of sequence information... I find it very gratifying." "It's an advance for evolutionary biologists and systems biologists who are interested in how humans are wired," added Phillip Zamore,...