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Emerging roles for microRNA in the regulation of Drosophila circadian clock
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The circadian clock, which operates within an approximately 24-h period, is closely linked to the survival and fitness of almost all living organisms. The circadian clock is generated through a negative transcription-translation feedback loop. microRNAs (miRNAs) are small non-coding RNAs comprised of approximately 22 nucleotides that post-transcriptionally regulate target mRNA by either inducing mRNA degradation or inhibiting translation. Results: In recent years, miRNAs have been found to play important roles in the regulation of the circadian clock, especially in Drosophila. In this review, we will use fruit flies as an example, and summarize the progress achieved in the study of miRNA-mediated clock regulation. Three main aspects of the circadian clock, namely, the free-running period, locomotion phase, and circadian amplitude, are discussed in detail in the context of how miRNAs are involved in these regulations. In addition, approaches regarding the discovery of circadian-related miRNAs and their targets are also discussed. Conclusions: Research in the last decade suggests that miRNA-mediated post-transcriptional regulation is crucial to the generation and maintenance of a robust circadian clock in animals. In flies, miRNAs are known to modulate circadian rhythmicity and the free-running period, as well as circadian outputs. Further characterization of miRNAs, especially in the circadian input, will be a vital step toward a more comprehensive understanding of the functions underlying miRNA-control of the circadian clock.