Length-dependent degradation of microRNAs by immune responses

Lead researcher

Dr Michael Gantier

Main finding

In this work we discovered that the stability of some microRNAs was dependent on their length. As such, we found that stimulation of cells with type-I interferon, resulted in the specific decrease of selected long microRNA families.


Centre for Innate Immunity & Infectious Diseases

Research group

Nucleic Acids and Innate Immunity


Nejad C, Pillman KA, Siddle KJ, Pépin G, Änkö ML, McCoy CE, Beilharz TH, Quintana-Murci L, Goodall GJ, Bracken CP, Gantier MP

Journal and article title

Most surprising

This is the first description of an inducible degradation of microRNAs based on their length, and demonstrates the importance of microRNA length to understand their function.

Future implications

MicroRNAs have a lot of potential as disease biomarkers since they are secreted by cells in bodily fluids (blood, urine...). However there are less than 2000 microRNAs in humans, and their regulation is rarely restricted to a single disease.
It has recently been discovered that microRNAs can vary in length (between 18-26 bases), known as isoforms, and that selected microRNA isoforms are more likely to be disease specific.
Our work demonstrates that the level of isoforms can be dynamically regulated by immune responses, and suggests that the same would apply to diseases - supporting the concept that microRNA isoforms could be used as disease biomarkers.

Disease/health impact

Infectious diseases, cancer

Dr Michael Gantier from the Nucleic Acids and Innate Immunity Research Group at Hudson Institute