The role of RNA structure at 5′ untranslated region in microRNA-mediated gene regulation

Wanjun Gu, Yuming Xu, Xueying Xie, Ting Wang, Jae Hong Ko, Tong Zhou

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

79 Scopus citations


Recent studies have suggested that the secondary structure of the 5′ untranslated region (5′ UTR) of messenger RNA (mRNA) is important for microRNA (miRNA)-mediated gene regulation in humans. mRNAs that are targeted by miRNA tend to have a higher degree of local secondary structure in their 5′ UTR; however, the general role of the 5′ UTR in miRNA-mediated gene regulation remains unknown. We systematically surveyed the secondary structure of 5′ UTRs in both plant and animal species and found a universal trend of increased mRNA stability near the 5′ cap in mRNAs that are regulated by miRNA in animals, but not in plants. Intra-genome comparison showed that gene expression level, GC content of the 5′ UTR, number of miRNA target sites, and 5′ UTR length may influence mRNA structure near the 5′ cap. Our results suggest that the 5′ UTR secondary structure performs multiple functions in regulating post-transcriptional processes. Although the local structure immediately upstream of the start codon is involved in translation initiation, RNA structure near the 5′ cap site, rather than the structure of the full-length 5′ UTR sequences, plays an important role in miRNA-mediated gene regulation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1369-1375
Number of pages7
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2014


  • 5′ untranslated region
  • Gene regulation
  • MicroRNA
  • Rna structure

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology


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