Nucleic acids research

Atypical transcription of microRNA gene fragments

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MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are short (~22 nt) RNAs that impact gene expression by sequence-specific interactions with messenger RNA or promoter sequences of genomic DNA. Ectopic expression of miRNAs can be accomplished by placing fragments of the corresponding miRNA precursor under the control of RNA polymerase II or III (RNAP II/III). Here, we report that, in the absence of exogenous promoters, DNA fragments incorporating miRNA precursors can be delivered directly into a variety of human cells and give rise to the corresponding mature miRNA. Notably, the transcription of these miRNA DNA fragments appears resistant to conventional inhibitors of RNAP I/II/III activity. Taken together, our findings suggest the existence of a previously unrecognized atypical transcription program for miRNA precursor sequences. © The Author(s) 2010.