The May issue of the Journal of Lipid Research contains a new thematic series, “Functional regulation of lipid homeostasis by microRNA,” coordinated by JLR editorial board member Kathryn Moore of the New York University Medical Center. Moore’s introductory editorial, titled “MicroRNAs: small regulators with a big impact on lipid metabolism,” and four reviews from experts in the field make up the series.
While they were first discovered only in the early 1990s, microRNAs have since been found in all standard laboratory eukaryotic systems, mammals, plants and fungi. MicroRNAs are important sections of genetic material that play a major role in gene expression. These short RNA sequences are able to bind to messenger RNA, the genetic messages that code for proteins, and affect the expression of the message, usually acting on it by silencing it.
Mireille Ouimet and Moore’s contribution to the series, “A big role for small RNAs in HDL homeostasis,” provides an overview of the biology of microRNAs, discusses how the first microRNA miR-122 was discovered and covers the evolutionarily conserved miR-33 that is found in two forms in humans. With the recent discovery that high-density lipoprotein itself assists in the transport of microRNAs, Ouimet and Moore contend that there likely are many more functions mediated by these related microRNAs.
In his review, “Needles in the genetic haystack of lipid disorders: single nucleotide polymorphisms in the miRNA regulome,” Praveen Sethupathy of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill takes a closer look at microRNA-related genetic variation and how growing evidence suggests it may be the key to the development of lipid disorders.
In “Extracellular communication via microRNA: lipid particles have a new message,” Katey Rayner and Elizabeth Hennessy of the University of Ottawa Heart Institute and the New York University School of Medicine, respectively, explore the potential for microRNAs to act not just as mediators for cell-to-cell communication but also as possible detectable biomarkers for certain lipid-related diseases.
In the final review, Kasey Vickers of the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine and colleagues discuss how one particular gene location might have the potential to give rise to multiple, different microRNA isoforms, how these isoforms may affect lipid metabolism in the body and how this unexpected discovery in microRNA diversity has complicated the way researchers view microRNAs.
Mary L. Chang (firstname.lastname@example.org) is publications manager for the Journal of Lipid Research and Molecular & Cellular Proteomics.