Two MicroRNAs are sufficient for embryogenesis

Engineering a non-canonical microRNA delivery pathway to study animal development

This video is a very personal one – it summarizes my PhD paper on the role of microRNAs in early animal development. MicroRNAs are small molecules that regulate gene expression. Removing the MicroRNA-processing machinery, consisting of Drosha and Pasha, results in the loss of all canonical microRNAs and causes early embryonic lethality in all animal models studied. However, the reason for this lethality is not known. In this paper, we develop a strategy to reintroduce selected microRNAs into an otherwise microRNA-deficient background by engineering the mirtron pathway. 

This way, we show that only two microRNAs, miR-35 and miR-51, are strictly required for embryonic development in the nematode C. elegans. Our results offer a classification of all microRNAs into two groups that contribute differentially to animal development: few microRNAs act in the early stages of development, whereas the majority of microRNAs play more specialized roles at later stages. This classification may provide a more general framework for understanding the contributions of miRNAs to animal development and evolution. Curious to learn more? Check out the paper!