MicroRNAs: Essential players in the regulation of inflammation

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Regulation of inflammatory responses is ensured by coordinated control of gene expression in participating immune system and tissue cells. One group of gene expression regulators, the functions of which have recently been started to be uncovered in relation to any type of inflammatory condition, is a class of short single-stranded RNA molecules termed microRNAs (miRNAs). miRNAs function together with partner proteins and mainly cause gene silencing through degradation of target mRNAs or inhibition of translation. A particular miRNA can have hundreds of target genes, and thereby miRNAs together influence the expression of a large proportion of proteins. The role of miRNAs in the immune system has been extensively studied since the discovery of miRNAs in mammalian cells approximately 10 years ago. The purpose of the current review is to provide an overview on the functions of miRNAs in the regulation of inflammation, with a specific focus on the mechanisms of allergic inflammation. Because recent studies clearly demonstrate the presence of extracellular miRNAs in body fluids and propose the involvement of miRNAs in cell-cell communication, we will also highlight findings about functions of extracellular miRNAs. The possible use of miRNAs as biomarkers, as well as miRNA-related novel treatment modalities, might open a new future for the diagnosis and treatment of many inflammatory conditions, including allergic diseases.

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