Methods in Molecular Biology Volume 863, 2012, pp 241-251

The Role of MicroRNAs in the Management of Liver Cancer

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Abstract

Four major components of epigenetic regulation are promoter methylation, histone modification, chromatin conformation changes, and altered expression of noncoding RNAs, especially microRNAs (miRNAs). MiRNAs are noncoding RNAs of single-stranded RNA molecules consisting of ∼22 nucleotides that regulate gene expression at the posttranscriptional level. MiRNAs are endogenous and potentially can regulate every aspect of cellular activity, including development and proliferation, differentiation, metabolism, viral infection, epigenetic modulation, apoptotic cell death, and tumor genesis. Recent studies provide evidence that miRNAs are abundant in the liver and affect a diverse spectrum of liver functions. MiRNA expression and deregulation of miRNAs may be a major pathogenetic factor in many liver diseases. Although global downregulation is a common trait in human malignancies, including viral hepatitis, hepatocellular carcinoma, and polycystic liver diseases, specific miRNAs are upregulated in cancer and offer new diagnostic and therapeutic strategies to manage liver diseases. Here, the current status of the role of miRNAs in liver cancer is discussed along with areas for future research.