What do all the (human) micro-RNAs do?
Background: Micro-RNAs (miRNA) are attributed to the systems biological role of a regulatory mechanism of the expression of protein coding genes. Research has identified miRNAs dysregulations in several but distinct pathophysiological processes, which hints at distinct systems-biology functions of miRNAs. The present analysis approached the role of miRNAs from a genomics perspective and assessed the biological roles of 2954 genes and 788 human miRNAs, which can be considered to interact, based on empirical evidence and computational predictions of miRNA versus gene interactions. Results: From a genomics perspective, the biological processes in which the genes that are influenced by miRNAs are involved comprise of six major topics comprising biological regulation, cellular metabolism, information processing, development, gene expression and tissue homeostasis. The usage of this knowledge as a guidance for further research is sketched for two genetically defined functional areas: cell death and gene expression. Results suggest that the latter points to a fundamental role of miRNAs consisting of hyper-regulation of gene expression, i.e., the control of the expression of such genes which control specifically the expression of genes. Conclusions: Laboratory research identified contributions of miRNA regulation to several distinct biological processes. The present analysis transferred this knowledge to a systems-biology level. A comprehensible and precise description of the biological processes in which the genes that are influenced by miRNAs are notably involved could be made. This knowledge can be employed to guide future research concerning the biological role of miRNA (dys-) regulations. The analysis also suggests that miRNAs especially control the expression of genes that control the expression of genes.