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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

MicroRNA-encoding long non-coding RNAs

Shunmin He13, Hua Su13, Changning Liu23, Geir Skogerbø1, Housheng He1, Dandan He1, Xiaopeng Zhu1, Tao Liu1, Yi Zhao2* and Runsheng Chen1*

Author Affiliations

1 Bioinformatics Laboratory and National Laboratory of Biomacromolecules, Institute of Biophysics, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, PR China

2 Bioinformatics Research Group, Institute of Computing Technology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, PR China

3 Graduate School of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, PR China

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BMC Genomics 2008, 9:236  doi:10.1186/1471-2164-9-236

Published: 21 May 2008



Recent analysis of the mouse transcriptional data has revealed the existence of ~34,000 messenger-like non-coding RNAs (ml-ncRNAs). Whereas the functional properties of these ml-ncRNAs are beginning to be unravelled, no functional information is available for the large majority of these transcripts.


A few ml-ncRNA have been shown to have genomic loci that overlap with microRNA loci, leading us to suspect that a fraction of ml-ncRNA may encode microRNAs. We therefore developed an algorithm (PriMir) for specifically detecting potential microRNA-encoding transcripts in the entire set of 34,030 mouse full-length ml-ncRNAs. In combination with mouse-rat sequence conservation, this algorithm detected 97 (80 of them were novel) strong miRNA-encoding candidates, and for 52 of these we obtained experimental evidence for the existence of their corresponding mature microRNA by microarray and stem-loop RT-PCR. Sequence analysis of the microRNA-encoding RNAs revealed an internal motif, whose presence correlates strongly (R2 = 0.9, P-value = 2.2 × 10-16) with the occurrence of stem-loops with characteristics of known pre-miRNAs, indicating the presence of a larger number microRNA-encoding RNAs (from 300 up to 800) in the ml-ncRNAs population.


Our work highlights a unique group of ml-ncRNAs and offers clues to their functions.