Posted Tue, Mar, 03,2015
This author interview is by Dr Y-H Taguchi, of Chuo University. Dr Taguchi's full paper, Apparent microRNA-Target-specific Histone Modification in Mammalian Spermatogenesis, is available for download in Evolutionary Bioinformatics.
Please summarise for readers the content of your article.
I performed meta-analyses on publically available histone modification profiles in spermatogenesis. I found that how histone is modified is deeply related to how genes associated with histone modifications are targeted by microRNAs (miRNAs).
How did you come to be involved in your area of study?
In 2011, I started the research project, supported by KAKENHI grant, to computationally infer miRNA regulation of target genes based on only target gene expression. Subsequently I invented the method called MiRaGE, which was released as a package available in Bioconductor. When submitting an article using this methodology to the ICIC2012 conference, some reviewers advised me to consider promoter methylation together. Following their advice, I have found that how promoter is methylated is deeply related to how genes associated with promoter methylation are targeted by miRNAs (these have already been published as two research papers in 2013). After this, I came to the idea that any other epigenetic effects are also affected by how genes associated with specific epigenetic markers are targeted by miRNAs. Applying this idea to histone modification, I have found that it truly occurs.
What was previously known about the topic of your article?
To my knowledge, there have been no previous discussions about this effect. Thus, it is the first report about the collaboration between histone modification and being targeted by miRNAs.
How has your work in this area advanced understanding of the topic?
Although there was a lot of research focused on epigenetics, collaborations between distinct epigenetic effects was rarely discussed. Since histone modification takes place in nuclei while miRNA regulation of target genes occurs in cytoplasm, the collaboration between these two was hardly considered. However, it was recently reported that miRNA has many unknown functions other than target gene regulation in cytoplasm. For example, some miRNAs were reported to be localized in nuclei, too. However, there are no known functions of miRNAs in nuclei, at least in mammals. Thus, the present work may open the gate for research into the collaboration between miRNAs and histone modification as well as unknown functions of miRNAs in mammalian nuclei.
What do you regard as being the most important aspect of the results reported in the article?
Although histone modification is regarded to be very important, our knowledge about it is very limited. For example, in epigenetic therapy that is recently regarded to be promising strategy to cure cancers, histone modifications are supposed to play critical roles. In recent focus on the topic of transgenerational epigenetics, histone modification is one of promising heritable epigenetic features. Studying the collaboration between miRNAs and histone modification may lead us to understand these unknown roles of histone modification. Experimental confirmation of miRNA-target-specific histone modification is eagerly waited.
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