MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are an emerging class of highly conserved non-coding small RNAs that regulate gene expression at the post-transcriptional level. It is now clear that miRNAs can potentially regulate every aspect of cellular activity, including differentiation and development, metabolism, proliferation, apoptotic cell death, viral infection and tumorigenesis. Recent studies provide clear evidence that miRNAs are abundant in the liver and modulate a diverse spectrum of liver functions. Deregulation of miRNA expression may be a key pathogenetic factor in many liver diseases including viral hepatitis, hepatocellular cancer and polycystic liver diseases. A clearer understanding of the mechanisms involved in miRNA deregulation will offer new diagnostic and therapeutic strategies to treat liver diseases. Moreover, better understanding of miRNA regulation and identification of tissue-specific miRNA targets employing transgenic/knockout models and/or modulating oligonucleotides will improve our knowledge of liver physiology and diseases.
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