Evolution of the human-specific microRNA miR-941


MicroRNA-mediated gene regulation is important in many physiological processes. Here we explore the roles of a microRNA, miR-941, in human evolution. We find that miR-941 emerged de novo in the human lineage, between six and one million years ago, from an evolutionarily volatile tandem repeat sequence. Its copy-number remains polymorphic in humans and shows a trend for decreasing copy-number with migration out of Africa. Emergence of miR-941 was accompanied by accelerated loss of miR-941-binding sites, presumably to escape regulation. We further show that miR-941 is highly expressed in pluripotent cells, repressed upon differentiation and preferentially targets genes in hedgehog- and insulin-signalling pathways, thus suggesting roles in cellular differentiation. Human-specific effects of miR-941 regulation are detectable in the brain and affect genes involved in neurotransmitter signalling. Taken together, these results implicate miR-941 in human evolution, and provide an example of rapid regulatory evolution in the human linage.

DOI: 10.1038/ncomms2146

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@inproceedings{Hu2012EvolutionOT, title={Evolution of the human-specific microRNA miR-941}, author={Haiyang Hu and Liu He and Kseniya Fominykh and Zheng Yan and Song Guo and Xiaoyu Zhang and Martin S. Taylor and Lin Tang and Jie Li and Jianmei Liu and Wen Wang and Haijing Yu and Philipp Khaitovich}, booktitle={Nature communications}, year={2012} }