What are MicroRNA sponges?

MicroRNA sponges are decoy targets for miRNA seed families !

Ebert, Neilson & Sharp in 2007 report how to make decoy targets for several microRNA seed families, and named them ‘microRNA sponges’. Furthermore the researchers tested their ability to derepress microRNA targets in mammalian cells. In their paper in Nature Methods the scientists presented evidence that microRNA sponges are at least as effective as other antisense technologies and that their activity is specific to microRNA seed families. They showed that microRNA sponges can be used to validate target predictions and assay microRNA loss-of-function phenotypes. This method presents an alternative to injecting synthetic targets. The expression of transcripts with multiple miRNA sites provides a means to sequester miRNAs in vivo. The term miRNA ‘sponge’ describes  the use of a transgene to ‘soak up’ endogenous miRNAs.


Margaret S Ebert, Joel R Neilson & Phillip A Sharp; MicroRNA sponges: competitive inhibitors of small RNAs in mammalian cells Nature Methods 4, 721 – 726 (2007). Published online: 12 August 2007 | doi:10.1038/nmeth1079.

Categories: miRNA, miRNA sponges, non-coding RNAs, Regulatory RNA, RNA, RNA Synthesis, RNA World, RNAi

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1 reply

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