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SNP analysis reveals an evolutionary acceleration of the human-specific microRNAs

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  • Genetics & Genomics
  • Bioinformatics
  • Evolutionary Biology
  • Medicine


MicroRNAs are one class of important gene regulators at the post-transcriptional level by binding to the 3’UTRs of target mRNAs. It has been reported that human microRNAs are evolutionary conserved and show lower single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) than their flanking regions. However, in this study, we report that the human-specific microRNAs show a higher SNP density than both the conserved microRNAs and other control regions, suggesting rapid evolution and positive selection has occurred in these regions. Furthermore, we observe that the human-specific microRNAs show greater SNPs minor allele frequency and the SNPs in the human-specific microRNAs show fewer effects on the stability of the microRNA secondary structure, indicating that the SNPs in the human-specific microRNAs tend to be less deleterious. Finally, two microRNAs hsa-mir-423 (SNP: rs6505162), hsa-mir-608 (SNP: rs4919510) and 288 target genes that have apparently been under recent positive selection are identified. These findings will improve our understanding of the functions, evolution, and population disease susceptibility of human microRNAs.

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