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MicroRNAs in brain development and function: a matter of flexibility and stability

DOI: 10.3389/fnmol.2014.00005

Keywords: microRNA, neurogenesis, neural stem cells, fate determination, synaptogenesis, synaptic function, LTP

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Abstract:

Fine-tuning of gene expression is a fundamental requirement for development and function of cells and organs. This requirement is particularly obvious in the nervous system where originally common stem cell populations generate thousands of different neuronal and glial cell types in a temporally and quantitatively perfectly orchestrated manner. Moreover, after their generation, young neurons have to connect with pre-determined target neurons through the establishment of functional synapses, either in their immediate environment or at distance. Lastly, brain function depends not only on static circuitries, but on plastic changes at the synaptic level allowing both, learning and memory. It appears evident that these processes necessitate flexibility and stability at the same time. These two contrasting features can only be achieved by complex molecular networks, superposed levels of control and tight interactions between regulatory mechanisms. Interactions between microRNAs and their target mRNAs fulfill these requirements. Here we review recent literature dealing with the involvement of microRNAs in multiple aspects of brain development and connectivity.

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