Computational identification of microRNAs and their targets

Baohong Zhang, Xiaoping Pan, Qinglian Wang, George P. Cobb, Todd A. Anderson

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

163 Scopus citations


MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are one class of newly identified riboregulators of gene expression in many eukaryotic organisms. They play important roles in multiple biological and metabolic processes, including developmental timing, signal transduction, cell maintenance and differentiation, diseases and cancers. miRNAs regulate gene expression at the posttranscriptional level by directly cleaving targeted mRNAs or repressing translation. Although the founding members of miRNAs were discovered by genetic screening approaches, experimental approaches were limited by their low efficiency, time consuming, and high cost. As an alternative, computational approaches were developed. Computational approaches for identifying miRNAs are based on the following major characteristics of miRNAs: hairpin-shaped secondary structures, high conservation for some miRNAs, and high minimal folding free energy index (MFEI). Computational approaches also play an important role in identifying miRNA targets. A majority of known miRNAs and their targets were identified by computational approaches. Several web-based or non-web-based computer software programs are publicly available for predicting miRNAs and their targets.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)395-407
Number of pages13
JournalComputational Biology and Chemistry
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2006


  • Computational approach
  • Gene regulation
  • MFEI
  • MicroRNA
  • Minimal folding free energy index
  • miRNA


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