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1.  microRNAs in Circulation Are Altered in Response to Influenza A Virus Infection in Humans 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(10):e76811.
Changes in microRNA expression have been detected in vitro in influenza infected cells, yet little is known about them in patients. microRNA profiling was performed on whole blood of H1N1 patients to identify signature microRNAs to better understand the gene regulation involved and possibly improve diagnosis. Total RNA extracted from blood samples of influenza infected patients and healthy controls were subjected to microRNA microarray. Expression profiles of circulating microRNAs were altered and distinctly different in influenza patients. Expression of highly dysregulated microRNAs were validated using quantitative PCR. Fourteen highly dysregulated miRNAs, identified from the blood of influenza infected patients, provided a clear distinction between infected and healthy individuals. Of these, expression of miR-1260, -26a, -335*, -576-3p, -628-3p and -664 were consistently dysregulated in both whole blood and H1N1 infected cells. Potential host and viral gene targets were identified and the impact of microRNA dysregulation on the host proteome was studied. Consequences of their altered expression were extrapolated to changes in the host proteome expression. These highly dysregulated microRNAs may have crucial roles in influenza pathogenesis and are potential biomarkers of influenza.
PMCID: PMC3792094  PMID: 24116168
2.  A Critical Evaluation of microRNA Biomarkers in Non-Neoplastic Disease 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(2):e89565.
MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are small (∼22-nt), stable RNAs that critically modulate post-transcriptional gene regulation. MicroRNAs can be found in the blood as components of serum, plasma and peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs). Many microRNAs have been reported to be specific biomarkers in a variety of non-neoplastic diseases. To date, no one has globally evaluated these proposed clinical biomarkers for general quality or disease specificity. We hypothesized that the cellular source of circulating microRNAs should correlate with cells involved in specific non-neoplastic disease processes. Appropriate cell expression data would inform on the quality and usefulness of each microRNA as a biomarker for specific diseases. We further hypothesized a useful clinical microRNA biomarker would have specificity to a single disease.
Methods and Findings
We identified 416 microRNA biomarkers, of which 192 were unique, in 104 publications covering 57 diseases. One hundred and thirty-nine microRNAs (33%) represented biologically plausible biomarkers, corresponding to non-ubiquitous microRNAs expressed in disease-appropriate cell types. However, at a global level, many of these microRNAs were reported as “specific” biomarkers for two or more unrelated diseases with 6 microRNAs (miR-21, miR-16, miR-146a, miR-155, miR-126 and miR-223) being reported as biomarkers for 9 or more distinct diseases. Other biomarkers corresponded to common patterns of cellular injury, such as the liver-specific microRNA, miR-122, which was elevated in a disparate set of diseases that injure the liver primarily or secondarily including hepatitis B, hepatitis C, sepsis, and myocardial infarction.
Only a subset of reported blood-based microRNA biomarkers have specificity for a particular disease. The remainder of the reported non-neoplastic biomarkers are either biologically implausible, non-specific, or uninterpretable due to limitations of our current understanding of microRNA expression.
PMCID: PMC3935874  PMID: 24586876
3.  Human Papillomavirus Genotype 31 Does Not Express Detectable MicroRNA Levels during Latent or Productive Virus Replication 
Journal of Virology  2006;80(21):10890-10893.
It has recently become clear that several pathogenic DNA viruses express virally encoded microRNAs in infected cells. In particular, numerous microRNAs have been identified in a range of human and animal herpesviruses, and individual microRNAs have also been identified in members of the polyoma- and adenovirus families. Although their functions remain largely unknown, it seems likely that these viral microRNAs play an important role in viral replication in vivo. Here we present an analysis of the microRNAs expressed in human cells during the latent and productive phases of the human papillomavirus genotype 31 (HPV31) replication cycle. Although over 500 cellular microRNAs were cloned and identified, not a single HPV31-specific microRNA was obtained. We therefore concluded that HPV31, and possibly human papillomaviruses in general, does not express viral microRNAs.
PMCID: PMC1641796  PMID: 17041229
4.  Non-canonical MicroRNAs miR-320 and miR-702 Promote Proliferation in Dgcr8-deficient Embryonic Stem Cells 
MicroRNAs are known to contribute significantly to stem cell phenotype by post-transcriptionally regulating gene expression. Most of our knowledge of microRNAs comes from the study of canonical microRNAs that require two sequential cleavages by the Drosha/Dgcr8 heterodimer and Dicer to generate mature products. In contrast, non-canonical microRNAs bypass the cleavage by the Drosha/Dgcr8 heterodimer within the nucleus but still require cytoplasmic cleavage by Dicer. The function of non-canonical microRNAs in embryonic stem cells (ESCs) remains obscure. It has been hypothesized that non-canonical microRNAs have important roles in ESCs based upon the phenotypes of ESC lines that lack these specific classes of microRNAs; Dicer-deficient ESCs lacking both canonical and non-canonical microRNAs have much more severe proliferation defect than Dgcr8-deficient ESCs lacking only canonical microRNAs. Using these cell lines, we identified two non-canonical microRNAs, miR-320 and miR-702, that promote proliferation of Dgcr8-deficient ESCs by releasing them from G1 arrest. This is accomplished by targeting the 3′-untranslated regions of the cell cycle inhibitors p57 and p21 and thereby inhibiting their expression. This is the first report of the crucial role of non-canonical microRNAs in ESCs.
PMCID: PMC3478954  PMID: 22925886
miRNA; Dicer; Dgcr8; proliferation; miR-320; miR-702
5.  Regulation of Cardiac microRNAs by Cardiac microRNAs 
Circulation research  2013;113(1):62-71.
MicroRNAs modestly suppress their direct mRNA targets and these direct effects are amplified by modulation of gene transcription pathways. Consequently, indirect mRNA modulatory effects of microRNAs to increase or decrease mRNAs greatly outnumber direct target suppressions. Because microRNAs are products of transcription, the potential exists for microRNAs that regulate transcription to regulate other microRNAs.
Determine if cardiac-expressed microRNAs regulate expression of other cardiac microRNAs, and measure the impact of microRNA-mediated microRNA regulation on indirect regulation of non-target mRNAs.
Methods and Results
Transgenic expression of pre-microRNAs was used to generate mouse hearts expressing 6-16 fold normal levels of miR-143, miR-378, and miR-499. Genome-wide mRNA and microRNA signatures were established using deep sequencing; expression profiles provoked by each microRNA were defined. miR-143 suppressed its direct cardiac mRNA target hexokinase 2, but exhibited little indirect target regulation and did not regulate other cardiac microRNAs. Both miR-378 and miR-499 indirectly regulated hundreds of cardiac mRNAs and 15-30 cardiac microRNAs. MicroRNA overexpression did not alter normal processing of either transgenic or endogenous cardiac microRNAs, and microRNA-mediated regulation of other microRNAs encoded within parent genes occurred in tandem with parent mRNAs. MicroRNA regulation by miR-378 and miR-499 was stimulus-specific, and contributed to observed mRNA downregulation.
MicroRNAs that modulate cardiac transcription can indirectly regulate other microRNAs. Transcriptional modulation by microRNAs, and microRNA-mediated microRNA regulation, help explain how small direct effects of microRNAs are amplified to generate striking phenotypes.
PMCID: PMC3769967  PMID: 23625950
microRNA; deep sequencing; transcriptional regulation; translational regulation; myocardial; genetics; transgenic models
6.  The Impact of Hemolysis on Cell-Free microRNA Biomarkers 
Cell-free microRNAs in plasma and serum have become a promising source of biomarkers for various diseases. Despite rapid progress in this field, there remains a lack of consensus regarding optimal quantification methods, reference genes, and quality control of samples. Recent studies have shown that hemolysis occurring during blood collection has substantial impact on the microRNA content in plasma/serum. To date, the impact of hemolysis has only been investigated for a limited number of microRNAs, mainly the red blood cell (RBC)-enriched miRs-16 and -451. In contrast, the effect of hemolysis on other microRNAs – in particular those proposed as biomarkers – has not been addressed. In this study we profiled the microRNA content of hemolyzed and non-hemolyzed plasma as well as RBCs to obtain a profile of microRNAs in the circulation affected or unaffected by hemolysis. Profiling by TaqMan Array Microfluidic Cards was used to compare three pairs of hemolyzed and non-hemolyzed plasma (with varying degrees of hemolysis) and one RBC sample. A total of 136 microRNAs were detectable in at least two of the samples, and of those 15 were at least twofold elevated in all three hemolyzed samples. This number increased to 88 microRNAs for the sample with the highest level of hemolysis, with all of these also detected in the RBC profile. Thus these microRNAs represent a large proportion of detectable microRNAs and those most likely to be affected by hemolysis. Several of the hemolysis-susceptible microRNAs (e.g., miRs-21, -106a, -92a, -17, -16) have also been previously proposed as plasma/serum biomarkers of disease, highlighting the importance of rigorous quality control of plasma/serum samples used for measurement of circulating microRNAs. As low-level hemolysis is a frequent occurrence during plasma/serum collection it is critical that this is taken into account in the measurement of any candidate circulating microRNA.
PMCID: PMC3663194  PMID: 23745127
cell-free microRNA; red blood cells; hemolysis; biomarker; quality control
7.  Upregulated miR-146a expression in peripheral blood mononuclear cells from rheumatoid arthritis patients 
Arthritis Research & Therapy  2008;10(4):R101.
MicroRNAs are small noncoding RNA molecules that negatively regulate gene expression via degradation or translational repression of their targeted mRNAs. It is known that aberrant microRNA expression can play important roles in cancer, but the role of microRNAs in autoimmune diseases is only beginning to emerge. In this study, the expression of selected microRNAs is examined in rheumatoid arthritis.
Total RNA was isolated from peripheral blood mononuclear cells obtained from patients with rheumatoid arthritis, and healthy and disease control individuals, and the expression of miR-146a, miR-155, miR-132, miR-16, and microRNA let-7a was analyzed using quantitative real-time PCR.
Rheumatoid arthritis peripheral blood mononuclear cells exhibited between 1.8-fold and 2.6-fold increases in miR-146a, miR-155, miR-132, and miR-16 expression, whereas let-7a expression was not significantly different compared with healthy control individuals. In addition, two targets of miR-146a, namely tumor necrosis factor receptor-associated factor 6 (TRAF6) and IL-1 receptor-associated kinase 1 (IRAK-1), were similarly expressed between rheumatoid arthritis patients and control individuals, despite increased expression of miR-146a in patients with rheumatoid arthritis. Repression of TRAF6 and/or IRAK-1 in THP-1 cells resulted in up to an 86% reduction in tumor necrosis factor-α production, implicating that normal miR-146a function is critical for the regulation of tumor necrosis factor-α production.
Recent studies have shown that synovial tissue and synovial fibroblasts from patients with rheumatoid arthritis exhibit increased expression of certain microRNAs. Our data thus demonstrate that microRNA expression in rheumatoid arthritis peripheral blood mononuclear cells mimics that of synovial tissue/fibroblasts. The increased microRNA expression in rheumatoid arthritis patients is potentially useful as a marker for disease diagnosis, progression, or treatment efficacy, but this will require confirmation using a large and well defined cohort. Our data also suggest a possible mechanism contributing to rheumatoid arthritis pathogenesis, whereby miR-146a expression is increased but unable to properly function, leading to prolonged tumor necrosis factor-α production in patients with rheumatoid arthritis.
PMCID: PMC2575615  PMID: 18759964
8.  MicroRNA-Regulated Pathways in Hematological Malignancies: How to Avoid Cells Playing Out of Tune 
The coordinated expression and interplay among lineage specific transcription factors and microRNAs contribute to the regulation of gene expression and determination of cell specificity. In hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs), unique combinations of transcription factors largely control growth and maturation of different blood cell lineages through cooperative regulation of specific target genes. MicroRNAs provide an additional level of control beyond transcription factors. By acting as regulators of crucial lineage-specific genetic programs, microRNAs direct early multipotential progenitor cells to adopt a certain cell fate program. Thus, alteration of specific microRNA levels may affect proliferation, differentiation and genetic stability of HSCs, contributing to the onset of myeloproliferative disorders and leukemia. The major aim of this review is to highlight the critical role of microRNA-regulated pathways during the establishment and progression of hematological malignancies, with a particular attention to leukemia, lymphomas and myelodysplastic syndromes. This will give us the opportunity to discuss the potential use of microRNA-based therapeutic approaches in these diseases. MicroRNAs are indeed emerging as relevant tools to improve the efficacy of currently used therapeutic protocols.
PMCID: PMC3821651  PMID: 24145746
microRNA; leukemia; lymphoma
9.  MicroRNAs: Opening a New Vein in Angiogenesis Research 
Science signaling  2009;2(52):pe1.
Activation of the angiogenic program in endothelial cells is vital for normal embryonic development and for physiological angiogenesis in the adult. In addition, angiogenesis is an important therapeutic target: Formation of new blood vessels is desirable for regenerative purposes, such as during tissue healing or transplantation, but can be pathological, as in diabetic retinopathy and cancer. The response of the vascular endothelium to angiogenic stimuli is modulated by noncoding RNAs called microRNAs. The endothelial cell–specific microRNA microRNA-126 (miR-126) promotes angiogenesis in response to angiogenic growth factors, such as vascular endothelial growth factor or basic fibroblast growth factor, by repressing negative regulators of signal transduction pathways. Additional microRNAs have been implicated in the regulation of various aspects of angiogenesis. Thus, targeting the expression of microRNAs may be a novel therapeutic approach for diseases involving excess or insufficient vasculature.
PMCID: PMC2680274  PMID: 19126861
10.  MicroRNA Regulation in Renal Pathophysiology 
MicroRNAs are small, noncoding RNA molecules that regulate a considerable amount of human genes on the post-transcriptional level, and participate in many key biological processes. MicroRNA deregulation has been found associated with major kidney diseases. Here, we summarize current knowledge on the role of microRNAs in renal glomerular and tubular pathologies, with emphasis on the mesangial cell and podocyte dysfunction in diabetic nephropathy, the proximal tubular cell survival in acute kidney injury, the transport function of the thick ascending limb in Ca++ imbalance diseases, and the regulation of salt, K+ and blood pressure in the distal tubules. Identification of microRNAs and their target genes provides novel therapeutic candidates for treating these diseases. Manipulation of microRNA function with its sense or antisense oligonucleotide enables coordinated regulation of the entire downstream gene network, which has effectively ameliorated several renal disease phenotypes. The therapeutic potentials of microRNA based treatments, though promising, are confounded by major safety issues related to its target specificity, which remain to be fully elucidated.
PMCID: PMC3742175  PMID: 23799361
microRNA; kidney; diabetic nephropathy; hypercalciuria; hypertension
11.  Interplay between HIV-1 infection and host microRNAs 
Nucleic Acids Research  2011;40(5):2181-2196.
Using microRNA array analyses of in vitro HIV-1-infected CD4+ cells, we find that several host microRNAs are significantly up- or downregulated around the time HIV-1 infection peaks in vitro. While microRNA-223 levels were significantly enriched in HIV-1-infected CD4+CD8− PBMCs, microRNA-29a/b, microRNA-155 and microRNA-21 levels were significantly reduced. Based on the potential for microRNA binding sites in a conserved sequence of the Nef-3′-LTR, several host microRNAs potentially could affect HIV-1 gene expression. Among those microRNAs, the microRNA-29 family has seed complementarity in the HIV-1 3′-UTR, but the potential suppressive effect of microRNA-29 on HIV-1 is severely blocked by the secondary structure of the target region. Our data support a possible regulatory circuit at the peak of HIV-1 replication which involves downregulation of microRNA-29, expression of Nef, the apoptosis of host CD4 cells and upregulation of microRNA-223.
PMCID: PMC3300021  PMID: 22080513
12.  Identification of circulating microRNAs as diagnostic biomarkers for use in multiple myeloma 
British Journal of Cancer  2012;107(12):1987-1996.
Multiple myeloma is a plasma cell disorder that is characterised by clonal proliferation of malignant plasma cells in the bone marrow, monoclonal paraprotein in the blood or urine and associated organ dysfunction. It accounts for approximately 1% of cancers and 13% of haematological cancers. Myeloma arises from an asymptomatic proliferation of monoclonal plasma cells termed monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance (MGUS).
MicroRNA expression profiling of serum samples was performed on three patient groups as well as normal controls. Validation of the nine microRNAs detected as promising biomarkers was carried out using TaqMan quantitative reverse transcription PCR. MicroRNA levels in serum were normalised using standard curves to determine the numbers of microRNAs per μl of serum.
Three serum microRNAs, miR-720, miR-1308 and miR-1246, were found to have potential as diagnostic biomarkers in myeloma. Use of miR-720 and miR-1308 together provides a powerful diagnostic tool for distinguishing normal healthy controls, as well as patients with unrelated illnesses, from pre-cancerous myeloma and myeloma patients. In addition, the combination of miR-1246 and miR-1308 can distinguish MGUS from myeloma patients.
We have developed a biomarker signature using microRNAs extracted from serum, which has potential as a diagnostic and prognostic tool for multiple myeloma.
PMCID: PMC3516695  PMID: 23169280
myeloma; microRNAs; biomarkers; diagnostics; cleaved tRNA; serum miRNAs
13.  Dysregulation of miR-31 and miR-21 induced by zinc deficiency promotes esophageal cancer 
Carcinogenesis  2012;33(9):1736-1744.
Zinc deficiency (ZD) increases the risk of esophageal squamous cell carcinoma (ESCC). In a rat model, chronic ZD induces an inflammatory gene signature that fuels ESCC development. microRNAs regulate gene expression and are aberrantly expressed in cancers. Here we investigated whether chronic ZD (23 weeks) also induces a protumorigenic microRNA signature. Using the nanoString technology, we evaluated microRNA profiles in ZD esophagus and six additional tissues (skin, lung, pancreas, liver, prostate and peripheral blood mononuclear cells [PBMC]). ZD caused overexpression of inflammation genes and altered microRNA expression across all tissues analyzed, predictive of disease development. Importantly, the inflammatory ZD esophagus had a distinct microRNA signature resembling human ESCC or tongue SCC miRNAomes with miR-31 and miR-21 as the top-up-regulated species. Circulating miR-31 was also the top-up-regulated species in PBMCs. In ZD esophagus and tongue, oncogenic miR-31 and miR-21 overexpression was accompanied by down-regulation of their respective tumor-suppressor targets PPP2R2A and PDCD4. Importantly, esophageal miR-31 and miR-21 levels were directly associated with the appearance of ESCC in ZD rats, as compared with their cancer-free Zn-sufficient or Zn-replenished counterparts. In situ hybridization analysis in rat and human tongue SCCs localized miR-31 to tumor cells and miR-21 to stromal cells. In regressing tongue SCCs from Zn-supplemented rats, miR-31 and miR-21 expression was concomitantly reduced, establishing their responsiveness to Zn therapy. A search for putative microRNA targets revealed a bias toward genes in inflammatory pathways. Our finding that ZD causes miR-31 and miR-21 dysregulation associated with inflammation provides insight into mechanisms whereby ZD promotes ESCC.
PMCID: PMC3514898  PMID: 22689922
14.  Let-7 microRNAs are developmentally regulated in circulating human erythroid cells 
MicroRNAs are ~22nt-long small non-coding RNAs that negatively regulate protein expression through mRNA degradation or translational repression in eukaryotic cells. Based upon their importance in regulating development and terminal differentiation in model systems, erythrocyte microRNA profiles were examined at birth and in adults to determine if changes in their abundance coincide with the developmental phenomenon of hemoglobin switching.
Expression profiling of microRNA was performed using total RNA from four adult peripheral blood samples compared to four cord blood samples after depletion of plasma, platelets, and nucleated cells. Labeled RNAs were hybridized to custom spotted arrays containing 474 human microRNA species (miRBase release 9.1). Total RNA from Epstein-Barr virus (EBV)-transformed lymphoblastoid cell lines provided a hybridization reference for all samples to generate microRNA abundance profile for each sample.
Among 206 detected miRNAs, 79% of the microRNAs were present at equivalent levels in both cord and adult cells. By comparison, 37 microRNAs were up-regulated and 4 microRNAs were down-regulated in adult erythroid cells (fold change > 2; p < 0.01). Among the up-regulated subset, the let-7 miRNA family consistently demonstrated increased abundance in the adult samples by array-based analyses that were confirmed by quantitative PCR (4.5 to 18.4 fold increases in 6 of 8 let-7 miRNA). Profiling studies of messenger RNA (mRNA) in these cells additionally demonstrated down-regulation of ten let-7 target genes in the adult cells.
These data suggest that a consistent pattern of up-regulation among let-7 miRNA in circulating erythroid cells occurs in association with hemoglobin switching during the fetal-to-adult developmental transition in humans.
PMCID: PMC2792219  PMID: 19939273
15.  MicroRNAs in Acute Myeloid Leukemia and Other Blood Disorders 
Common blood disorders include hematopoietic cell malignancies or leukemias and plasma cell dyscrasia, all of which have associated microRNA abnormalities. In this paper, we discuss several leukemias including acute myeloid leukemia (AML) and chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) and identify altered microRNAs and their targets. Immune disorders with altered blood levels of antibodies include autoimmune disorders, such as systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) with associated anti-self-autoantibodies and immunoglobulin A nephropathy (IgAN) also have related microRNA abnormalities. The alterations in microRNAs may serve as therapeutic targets in these blood disorders.
PMCID: PMC3505936  PMID: 23259069
16.  Differential Expression of miR-145 in Children with Kawasaki Disease 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(3):e58159.
Kawasaki disease is an acute, self-limited vasculitis of childhood that can result in structural damage to the coronary arteries. Previous studies have implicated the TGF-β pathway in disease pathogenesis and generation of myofibroblasts in the arterial wall. microRNAs are small non-coding RNAs that modulate gene expression at the post-transcriptional level and can be transported between cells in extracellular vesicles. To understand the role that microRNAs play in modifying gene expression in Kawasaki disease, we studied microRNAs from whole blood during the acute and convalescent stages of the illness.
Methodology/Principal Findings
RNA isolated from the matched whole blood of 12 patients with acute and convalescent Kawasaki disease were analyzed by sequencing of small RNA. This analysis revealed six microRNAs (miRs-143, -199b-5p, -618, -223, -145 and -145* (complementary strand)) whose levels were significantly elevated during the acute phase of Kawasaki disease. The result was validated using targeted qRT-PCR using an independent cohort (n = 16). miR-145, which plays a critical role in the differentiation of neutrophils and vascular smooth muscle cells, was expressed at high levels in blood samples from acute Kawasaki disease but not adenovirus-infected control patients (p = 0.005). miR-145 was also detected in small extracellular vesicles isolated from acute Kawasaki disease plasma samples. Pathway analysis of the predicted targets of the 6 differentially expressed microRNAs identified the TGF-β pathway as the top pathway regulated by microRNAs in Kawasaki disease.
Sequencing of small RNA species allowed discovery of microRNAs that may participate in Kawasaki disease pathogenesis. miR-145 may participate, along with other differentially expressed microRNAs, in regulating expression of genes in the TGF-β pathway during the acute illness. If the predicted target genes are confirmed, our findings suggest a model of Kawasaki disease pathogenesis whereby miR-145 modulates TGF-β signaling in the arterial wall.
PMCID: PMC3590129  PMID: 23483985
17.  Differential Stability of Cell-Free Circulating microRNAs: Implications for Their Utilization as Biomarkers 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(9):e75184.
MicroRNAs circulating in the blood, stabilized by complexation with proteins and/or additionally by encapsulation in lipid vesicles, are currently being evaluated as biomarkers. The consequences of their differential association with lipids/vesicles for their stability and use as biomarkers are largely unexplored and are subject of the present study.
The levels of a set of selected microRNAs were determined by quantitative reverse-transcription PCR after extraction from sera or vesicle- and non-vesicle fractions prepared from sera. The stability of these microRNAs after incubation with RNase A or RNase inhibitor, an inhibitor of RNase A family enzymes was studied.
The levels of microRNA-1 and microRNA-122, but not those of microRNA-16, microRNA-21 and microRNA-142-3p, declined significantly during a 5-h incubation of the sera. RNase inhibitor prevented the loss of microRNAs in serum as well as the degradation of microRNA-122, a microRNA not expressed in blood cells, in whole blood. Stabilization of microRNA-122 was also achieved by hemolysis. Prolonged incubation of the sera led to enrichment of vesicle-associated relative to non-vesicle-associated microRNAs. Vesicle-associated microRNAs were more resistant to RNase A treatment than the respective microRNAs not associated with vesicles.
Serum microRNAs showed differential stability upon prolonged incubation. RNase inhibitor might be useful to robustly preserve the pattern of cell-free circulating microRNAs. In the case of microRNAs not expressed in blood cells this can also be achieved by hemolysis. Vesicle-associated microRNAs appeared to be more stable than those not associated with vesicles, which might be useful to disclose additional biomarker properties of miRNAs.
PMCID: PMC3779196  PMID: 24073250
18.  MicroRNAs in Sjögren’s syndrome as a prototypic autoimmune disease 
Autoimmunity reviews  2010;9(9):618-621.
MicroRNAs are endogenous non-coding RNAs, approximately 22 nucleotides in length. They regulate gene expression and are important in a wide range of physiological and pathological processes. MicroRNA expression is tightly regulated during hematopoiesis and lymphoid cell differentiation and disruption of the entire microRNA network or selected microRNAs may lead to dysregulated immune responses. Abnormalities in microRNA expression related to inflammatory cytokines, Th-17 and regulatory T cells as well as B cells have been described in several autoimmune diseases. Sjögren’s syndrome is characterized by features of systemic autoimmunity and chronic inflammation and dysfunction in exocrine organs. Its clinical characteristics along with the relatively easy access to the target tissue and its product makes Sjögren’s syndrome appealing to study many aspects of microRNAs in a systemic autoimmune disease, such as their potential as diagnostic or prognostic biomarkers and their role in pathogenesis of autoimmunity, inflammation or organ dysfunction. Encouraging preliminary data from pilot studies in Sjögren’s syndrome demonstrate the potential of microRNAs as putative diagnostic and prognostic biomarker candidates which should be tested in larger more definite studies. Combining the comparison of microRNA expression profiles between various clinical subsets of Sjögren’s syndrome with bioinformatic modeling tools may predict formerly unsuspected pathways which may contribute to the disease process and lead to the generation of testable novel hypothesis of pathogenesis.
PMCID: PMC3408312  PMID: 20457282
biomarker; autoimmunity; epigenetics; exocrine dysfunction; pathogenesis
19.  Filtering of false positive microRNA candidates by a clustering-based approach 
BMC Bioinformatics  2008;9(Suppl 12):S3.
MicroRNAs are small non-coding RNA gene products that play diversified roles from species to species. The explosive growth of microRNA researches in recent years proves the importance of microRNAs in the biological system and it is believed that microRNAs have valuable therapeutic potentials in human diseases. Continual efforts are therefore required to locate and verify the unknown microRNAs in various genomes. As many miRNAs are found to be arranged in clusters, meaning that they are in close proximity with their neighboring miRNAs, we are interested in utilizing the concept of microRNA clustering and applying it in microRNA computational prediction.
We first validate the microRNA clustering phenomenon in the human, mouse and rat genomes. There are 45.45%, 51.86% and 48.67% of the total miRNAs that are clustered in the three genomes, respectively. We then conduct sequence and secondary structure similarity analyses among clustered miRNAs, non-clustered miRNAs, neighboring sequences of clustered miRNAs and random sequences, and find that clustered miRNAs are structurally more similar to one another, and the RNAdistance score can be used to assess the structural similarity between two sequences. We therefore design a clustering-based approach which utilizes this observation to filter false positives from a list of candidates generated by a selected microRNA prediction program, and successfully raise the positive predictive value by a considerable amount ranging from 15.23% to 23.19% in the human, mouse and rat genomes, while keeping a reasonably high sensitivity.
Our clustering-based approach is able to increase the effectiveness of currently available microRNA prediction program by raising the positive predictive value while maintaining a high sensitivity, and hence can serve as a filtering step. We believe that it is worthwhile to carry out further experiments and tests with our approach using data from other genomes and other prediction software tools. Better results may be achieved with fine-tuning of parameters.
PMCID: PMC2638143  PMID: 19091026
20.  MicroRNA regulate immune pathways in T-cells in multiple sclerosis (MS) 
BMC Immunology  2013;14:32.
MicroRNA are small noncoding RNA molecules that are involved in the control of gene expression. To investigate the role of microRNA in multiple sclerosis (MS), we performed genome-wide expression analyses of mRNA and microRNA in T-cells from MS patients and controls.
Heparin-anticoagulated peripheral blood was collected from MS-patients and healthy controls followed by isolation of T-cells. MicroRNA and RNA from T-cells was prepared and hybridized to Affymetrix miR 2.0 array and Affymetrix U133Plus 2.0 Human Genome array (Santa Clara, CA), respectively. Verifications were performed with real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA).
We identified 2,452 differentially expressed genes and 21 differentially expressed microRNA between MS patients and controls. By Kolmogorov-Smirnov test, 20 of 21 differentially expressed microRNA were shown to affect the expression of their target genes, many of which were involved in the immune system. Tumor necrosis factor ligand superfamily member 14 (TNFSF14) was a microRNA target gene significantly decreased in MS. The differential expression of mir-494, mir-197 and the predicted microRNA target gene TNFSF14 was verified by real-time PCR and ELISA.
These findings indicate that microRNA may be important regulatory molecules in T-cells in MS.
PMCID: PMC3734042  PMID: 23895517
Autoimmunity; T-cell; Microarray; MicroRNA
21.  Profiling and Functional Analyses of MicroRNAs and Their Target Gene Products in Human Uterine Leiomyomas 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(8):e12362.
Human uterine leiomyomas (ULM) are characterized by dysregulation of a large number of genes and non-coding regulatory microRNAs. In order to identify microRNA::mRNA associations relevant to ULM pathogenesis, we examined global correlation patterns between the altered microRNA expression and the predicted target genes in ULMs and matched myometria.
Methodology/Principal Findings
Patterns of inverse association of microRNA with mRNA expression in ULMs revealed an involvement of multiple candidate pathways, including extensive transcriptional reprogramming, cell proliferation control, MAP kinase, TGF-β, WNT, JAK/STAT signaling, remodeling of cell adhesion, and cell-cell and cell-matrix contacts. We further examined the correlation between the expression of the selected target gene protein products and microRNAs in thirty-six paired sets of leiomyomas and matched myometria. We found that a number of dysregulated microRNAs were inversely correlated with their targets at the protein level. The comparative genomic hybridization (CGH) in eight ULM patients revealed that partially shared deletions of two distinct chromosomal regions might be responsible for loss of cancer–associated microRNA expression and could thus contribute to the ULM pathogenesis via deregulation of target mRNAs. Last, we functionally tested the repressor effects of selected cancer-related microRNAs on their predicted target genes in vitro.
We found that some but not all of the predicted and inversely correlated target genes in ULMs can be directly regulated by microRNAs in vitro. Our findings provide a broad overview of molecular events underlying the tumorigenesis of uterine ULMs and identify select genetic and regulatory events that alter microRNA expression and may play important roles in ULM pathobiology by positively regulating tumor growth while maintaining the non-invasive character of ULMs.
PMCID: PMC2927438  PMID: 20808773
22.  Clusters of microRNAs emerge by new hairpins in existing transcripts 
Nucleic Acids Research  2013;41(16):7745-7752.
Genetic linkage may result in the expression of multiple products from a polycistronic transcript, under the control of a single promoter. In animals, protein-coding polycistronic transcripts are rare. However, microRNAs are frequently clustered in the genomes of animals, and these clusters are often transcribed as a single unit. The evolution of microRNA clusters has been the subject of much speculation, and a selective advantage of clusters of functionally related microRNAs is often proposed. However, the origin of microRNA clusters has not been so far explored. Here, we study the evolution of microRNA clusters in Drosophila melanogaster. We observed that the majority of microRNA clusters arose by the de novo formation of new microRNA-like hairpins in existing microRNA transcripts. Some clusters also emerged by tandem duplication of a single microRNA. Comparative genomics show that these clusters are unlikely to split or undergo rearrangements. We did not find any instances of clusters appearing by rearrangement of pre-existing microRNA genes. We propose a model for microRNA cluster evolution in which selection over one of the microRNAs in the cluster interferes with the evolution of the other linked microRNAs. Our analysis suggests that the study of microRNAs and small RNAs must consider linkage associations.
PMCID: PMC3763532  PMID: 23775791
23.  Extra-cellular release and blood diffusion of BART viral micro-RNAs produced by EBV-infected nasopharyngeal carcinoma cells 
Virology Journal  2010;7:271.
Nasopharyngeal carcinoma (NPC) is a human epithelial malignancy consistently associated with the Epstein-Barr virus. The viral genome is contained in the nuclei of all malignant cells with abundant transcription of a family of viral microRNAs called BART miRNAs. MicroRNAs are well known intra-cellular regulatory elements of gene expression. In addition, they are often exported in the extra-cellular space and sometimes transferred in recipient cells distinct from the producer cells. Extra-cellular transport of the microRNAs is facilitated by various processes including association with protective proteins and packaging in secreted nanovesicles called exosomes. Presence of microRNAS produced by malignant cells has been reported in the blood and saliva of tumor-bearing patients, especially patients diagnosed with glioblastoma or ovarian carcinoma. In this context, it was decided to investigate extra-cellular release of BART miRNAs by NPC cells and their possible detection in the blood of NPC patients. To address this question, we investigated by quantitative RT-PCR the status of 5 microRNAs from the BART family in exosomes released by NPC cells in vitro as well as in plasma samples from NPC xenografted nude mice and NPC patients.
We report that the BART miRNAs are released in the extra-cellular space by NPC cells being associated, at least to a large extent, with secreted exosomes. They are detected with a good selectivity in plasma samples from NPC xenografted nude mice as well as NPC patients.
Viral BART miRNAs are secreted by NPC cells in vitro and in vivo. They have enough stability to diffuse from the tumor site to the peripheral blood. This study provides a basis to explore their potential as a source of novel tumor biomarkers and their possible role in communications between malignant and non-malignant cells.
PMCID: PMC2974674  PMID: 20950422
24.  MicroRNAs MiR-17, MiR-20a, and MiR-106b Act in Concert to Modulate E2F Activity on Cell Cycle Arrest during Neuronal Lineage Differentiation of USSC 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(1):e16138.
MicroRNAs are short (∼22 nt) non-coding regulatory RNAs that control gene expression at the post-transcriptional level. Here the functional impact of microRNAs on cell cycle arrest during neuronal lineage differentiation of unrestricted somatic stem cells from human cord blood (USSC) was analyzed.
Methodology/Principal Findings
Expression profiling revealed downregulation of microRNAs miR-17, -20a, and -106b in USSC differentiated into neuronal lineage but not in USSC differentiated into osteogenic lineage. Transfection experiments followed by Ki67 immunostainings demonstrated that each of these microRNAs was able to promote proliferation of native USSC and to prevent in part cell cycle arrest during neuronal lineage differentiation of USSC. Bioinformatic target gene predictions followed by experimental target gene validations revealed that miR-17, -20a, and -106b act in a common manner by downregulating an overlapping set of target genes mostly involved in regulation and execution of G1/S transition. Pro-proliferative target genes cyclinD1 (CCND1) and E2F1 as well as anti-proliferative targets CDKN1A (p21), PTEN, RB1, RBL1 (p107), RBL2 (p130) were shown as common targets for miR-17, -20a, and -106b. Furthermore, these microRNAs also downregulate WEE1 which is involved in G2/M transition. Most strikingly, miR-17, -20a, and -106b were found to promote cell proliferation by increasing the intracellular activity of E2F transcription factors, despite the fact that miR-17, -20a, and -106b directly target the transcripts that encode for this protein family.
Mir-17, -20a, and -106b downregulate a common set of pro- and anti-proliferative target genes to impact cell cycle progression of USSC and increase intracellular activity of E2F transcription factors to govern G1/S transition.
PMCID: PMC3024412  PMID: 21283765
25.  The Genomic Analysis of Erythrocyte microRNA Expression in Sickle Cell Diseases 
PLoS ONE  2008;3(6):e2360.
Since mature erythrocytes are terminally differentiated cells without nuclei and organelles, it is commonly thought that they do not contain nucleic acids. In this study, we have re-examined this issue by analyzing the transcriptome of a purified population of human mature erythrocytes from individuals with normal hemoglobin (HbAA) and homozygous sickle cell disease (HbSS).
Methods and Findings
Using a combination of microarray analysis, real-time RT-PCR and Northern blots, we found that mature erythrocytes, while lacking ribosomal and large-sized RNAs, contain abundant and diverse microRNAs. MicroRNA expression of erythrocytes was different from that of reticulocytes and leukocytes, and contributed the majority of the microRNA expression in whole blood. When we used microRNA microarrays to analyze erythrocytes from HbAA and HbSS individuals, we noted a dramatic difference in their microRNA expression pattern. We found that miR-320 played an important role for the down-regulation of its target gene, CD71 during reticulocyte terminal differentiation. Further investigation revealed that poor expression of miR-320 in HbSS cells was associated with their defective downregulation CD71 during terminal differentiation.
In summary, we have discovered significant microRNA expression in human mature erythrocytes, which is dramatically altered in HbSS erythrocytes and their defect in terminal differentiation. Thus, the global analysis of microRNA expression in circulating erythrocytes can provide mechanistic insights into the disease phenotypes of erythrocyte diseases.
PMCID: PMC2408759  PMID: 18523662

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