Robustness is a fundamental property of biological systems. The type of robustness that ensures uniform phenotypic outcomes in the face of variation during an organism's development is called canalization. Here, we discuss the roles that microRNAs play in providing canalization to animal development, citing recent theoretical and experimental advances. MicroRNAs repress protein expression, and they do this in ways that create thresholds in expression and provide adaptation to regulatory networks. Numerous examples have now been described where the developmental impact of environmental variation is suppressed by individual microRNAs. A recent paper has found that the impact of genomic variation between individuals is similarly suppressed by a microRNA operating in a developmental network. Thus, genetic variability is held in check, which is potentially important for both animal evolution and manifestation of disease.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Developmental Biology