Open Access Open Badges Research article

Novel microRNA families expanded in the human genome

Zhi-Qiang Du*, Cai-Xia Yang, Max F Rothschild and Jason W Ross

Author affiliations

Department of Animal Science and Center for Integrated Animal Genomics, Iowa State University, 2255 Kildee Hall, Ames, IA, 50011, USA

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Citation and License

BMC Genomics 2013, 14:98  doi:10.1186/1471-2164-14-98

Published: 12 February 2013



Most studies on the origin and evolution of microRNA in the human genome have been focused on its relationship with repetitive elements and segmental duplications. However, duplication events at a smaller scale (<1 kb) could also contribute to microRNA expansion, as demonstrated in this study.


Using comparative genome analysis and bioinformatics methods, we found nine novel expanded microRNA families enriched in short duplicated sequences in the human genome. Furthermore, novel genomic regions were found to contain microRNA paralogs for microRNA families previously analyzed to be related to segmental duplications. We found that for microRNA families expanded in the human genome, 14 families are specific to the primate lineage, and nine are non-specific, respectively. Two microRNA families (hsa-mir-1233 and hsa-mir-622) appear to be further expanded in the human genome, and were confirmed by fluorescence in situ hybridization. These novel microRNA families expanded in the human genome were mostly embedded in or close to proteins with conserved functions. Furthermore, besides the Alu element, L1 elements could also contribute to the origination of microRNA paralog families.


Together, we found that small duplication events could also contribute to microRNA expansion, which could provide us novel insights on the evolution of human genome structure and function.

Human; Genome; microRNA; Duplication; Evolution