Various technical tools have been developed to probe the functions of microRNAs (miRNAs), yet their application has been limited by low efficacy and specificity. To overcome the limitations, we used transcription activator–like effector nucleases (TALENs) to knock out human miRNA genes. We designed and produced a library of 540 pairs of TALENs for 274 miRNA loci, focusing on potentially important miRNAs. The knockout procedure takes only 2–4 weeks and can be applied to any cell type. As a case study, we generated knockout cells for two related miRNAs, miR-141 and miR-200c, which belong to the highly conserved miR-200 family. Interestingly, miR-141 and miR-200c, despite their overall similarity, suppress largely nonoverlapping groups of targets, thus suggesting that functional miRNA-target interaction requires strict seed-pairing. Our study illustrates the potency of TALEN technology and provides useful resources for miRNA research.
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