MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are small endogenous non-coding functional RNAs that post-transcriptionally regulate gene expression. They play essential roles in nearly all biological processes including cell development and differentiation, DNA damage repair, cell death as well as intercellular communication. They are highly involved in cancer, acting as tumor suppressors and/or promoters to modulate cell proliferation, epithelial-mesenchymal transition and tumor invasion and metastasis. Recent studies have shown that more than half of miRNAs are located within protein-coding or non-coding genes. Intragenic miRNAs and their host genes either share the promoter or have independent transcription. Meanwhile, miRNAs work as partners or antagonists of their host genes by fine-tuning their target genes functionally associated with host genes. This review outlined the complicated relationship between intragenic miRNAs and host genes. Focusing on miRNAs known as oncogenes or tumor suppressors in specific cancer types, it studied co-expression relationships between these miRNAs and host genes in the cancer types using TCGA data sets, which validated previous findings and revealed common, tumor-specific and even subtype-specific patterns. These observations will help understand the function of intragenic miRNAs and further develop miRNA therapeutics in cancer.
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