MicroRNAs: Potentially important regulators for schistosome development and therapeutic targets against schistosomiasis
MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are small, endogenous non-coding RNA molecules that regulate gene expression post-transcriptionally by targeting the 3' untranslated region (3' UTR) of messenger RNAs. Since the discovery of the first miRNA in Caenorhabditis elegans, important regulatory roles for miRNAs in many key biological processes including development, cell proliferation, cell differentiation and apoptosis of many organisms have been described. Hundreds of miRNAs have been identified in various multicellular organisms and many are evolutionarily conserved. Schistosomes are multi-cellular eukaryotes with a complex life-cycle that require genes to be expressed and regulated precisely. Recently, miRNAs have been identified in two major schistosome species, Schistosoma japonicum and S. mansoni. These miRNAs are likely to play critical roles in schistosome development and gene regulation. Here, we review recent studies on schistosome miRNAs and discuss the potential roles of miRNAs in schistosome development and gene regulation. We also summarize the current status for targeting miRNAs and the potential of this approach for therapy against schistosomiasis.