Technological improvements have resulted in increased discovery of new microRNAs (miRNAs) and refinement and enrichment of existing miRNA families. miRNA families are important because they suggest a common sequence or structure configuration in sets of genes that hint to a shared function. Exploratory tools to enhance investigation of characteristics of miRNA families and the functions of family-specific miRNA genes are lacking. We have developed, miRNAVISA, a user-friendly web-based tool that allows customized interrogation and comparisons of miRNA families for hypotheses generation, and comparison of per-species chromosomal distribution of miRNA genes in different families. This study illustrates hypothesis generation using miRNAVISA in seven species. Our results unveil a subclass of miRNAs that may be regulated by genomic imprinting, and also suggest that some miRNA families may be species-specific, as well as chromosome- and/or strand-specific.
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