The role which microRNA molecules play in muscle growth and regeneration has only been known for a short time and the complexity of its involvement is becoming ever more apparent. MicroRNA molecules have been known to have a role in biological processes, but until now, it was unclear how it was implicated in skeletal muscle growth.
Team leader Andrea Munsterburg led a group of researchers from the University of East Anglia and the Weizmann Institute of Sciences in Israel. The team determined that a specific type of mRNA called miR-206 is crucial for normal muscle development while still in the womb. It switches off a gene called Pax3, allowing our muscles to develop normally, and to have the ability to contract and control them as normal adults do. It is the discovery and proof in their research of this gene relation and function that provides new insight into skeletal muscle development.
Understanding how muscles develop and what biological processes are at work is important. Muscles are vital to survival in humans, and are used continually throughout life. As we age and muscles become weaker, or with muscle wasting as a result of disease, knowing what genes cause generation and degeneration of muscles is crucial.
With this new information on which genes are responsible for muscle growth, there is the potential in the future to look into stem cell research for muscle regeneration, especially in individuals with degenerative disease. Understanding the function of these mRNA's may also lead to methods of maintaining muscle mass and tone very different from the traditional forms.
Katarzyna Goljanek-Whysall, Dylan Sweetman, Muhammad Abu-Elmagd, Elik Chapnik, Tamas Dalmay, Eran Hornstein, Andrea Münsterberg. MicroRNA regulation of the paired-box transcription factor Pax3 confers robustness to developmental timing of myogenesis. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2011