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MicroRNAs are important regulators of gene expression, yet the functional outputs of most microRNA-target interactions remain elusive. Here we introduce the Drosophila melanogaster microRNA sponge (miR-SP) as a powerful transgenic technology to dissect the function of every microRNA with precise spatiotemporal resolution. miR-SPs can be used to characterize tissue-specific microRNA loss-of-function phenotypes, define the spatial regulation of their effectors and uncover interactions between microRNAs and other genes. Using themiR-SP system, we identified an essential role of the conserved microRNA miR-8, in neuromuscular junction formation. Tissue-specific silencing revealed that postsynaptic activity of miR-8 is important for normal neuromuscular junction morphogenesis. Given that miR-SPs rely on a bipartite modular expression system, they could be used to elucidate the endogenous function of microRNAs in any species in which conditional expression can be achieved.

Original publication




Journal article


Nat Methods

Publication Date





897 - 903


Animals, Animals, Genetically Modified, Drosophila melanogaster, MicroRNAs