MicroRNAs are approximately 22 nucleotides in length and are part of a class of RNA that do not code for proteins, termed non-coding RNAs.
MicroRNAs are highly conserved among species and the microRNA pathway is well-defined. They are produced in a precursor form, processed by an enzyme called Dicer and loaded into a complex called RISC. They act by binding to a target site at the end of coding RNA in a section known as the 3’ untranslated region resulting in inhibition of protein synthesis or degradation of the target RNA.
MicroRNAs are important fine-tuners of many physiological processes. Lack and excess of microRNAs have been implicated in many diseases, including inflammatory disease. Our zebrafish model of inflammation gives us the opportunity to manipulate microRNAs to assess the effect on the innate immune response in a whole organism. Therapeutics manipulating microRNAs are currently in development by pharmaceutical companies and there is potential for knowledge gained here to uncover key microRNAs involved in the inflammatory process.