Molecular Diagnosis & Therapy

, Volume 21, Issue 5, pp 511–523 | Cite as

Levels of MicroRNA Heterogeneity in Cancer Biology

  • Nina PetrovicEmail author
  • Sercan Ergün
  • Esma R. Isenovic
Review Article


MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are post-transcriptional regulators of gene expression, involved in the silencing of messenger RNA (mRNA) translation. The importance of miRNA signatures in disease screening, prognosis, and progression of different tumor types and subtypes is increasing. miRNA expression levels change depending on numerous factors. In this review, we are describing the circumstances under which miRNA levels can change, these are named ‘levels’ of heterogeneity of miRNAs. miRNAs can have oncogenic, tumor suppressive, or both roles depending on tumor type and target mRNA whose translation they silence. The expression levels of a single miRNA may vary across different cancer types and subtypes, indicating that a miRNA signature may be tissue specific. miRNA levels of expression also vary during disease formation and propagation, indicating the presence of a time profile for their expression. The complexity of the miRNA-mRNA interference network mirrors different genetic and epigenetic changes that influence miRNA and mRNA availability to each other, and hence, their binding ability. The potential role of miRNAs as biomarkers is two-fold; first, for monitoring of the phases of cancer pathogenesis, and second, to characterize the particular type/subtype of cancer. It is important that a particular miRNA should be characterized by examining as many types and subtypes of cancers as are available, as well as being extracted from different types of samples, in order to obtain a complete picture of its behavior and importance in the disease pathology.


Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

Nina Petrovic, Sercan Ergün, and Esma R. Isenovic declare having no conflict of interest.


This work was supported by the Ministry of Education and Science, Republic of Serbia, Grants OI173049 (B.D.), OI173044 (E.R.I), and Ordu University, Scientific Research Projects Coordination Unit.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG Switzerland 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nina Petrovic
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Sercan Ergün
    • 3
  • Esma R. Isenovic
    • 1
    • 4
  1. 1.Department for Radiobiology and Molecular Genetics, Vinca Institute of Nuclear SciencesUniversity of BelgradeBelgradeSerbia
  2. 2.Institute for Oncology and Radiology of SerbiaBelgradeSerbia
  3. 3.Ulubey Vocational Higher SchoolOrdu UniversityOrduTurkey
  4. 4.Faculty of Stomatology, PancevoUniversity Business AcademyNovi SadSerbia

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