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1.  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
2.  miR-142 orchestrates a network of actin cytoskeleton regulators during megakaryopoiesis 
eLife  2014;3:e01964.
Genome-encoded microRNAs (miRNAs) provide a posttranscriptional regulatory layer that controls the differentiation and function of various cellular systems, including hematopoietic cells. miR-142 is one of the most prevalently expressed miRNAs within the hematopoietic lineage. To address the in vivo functions of miR-142, we utilized a novel reporter and a loss-of-function mouse allele that we have recently generated. In this study, we show that miR-142 is broadly expressed in the adult hematopoietic system. Our data further reveal that miR-142 is critical for megakaryopoiesis. Genetic ablation of miR-142 caused impaired megakaryocyte maturation, inhibition of polyploidization, abnormal proplatelet formation, and thrombocytopenia. Finally, we characterized a network of miR-142-3p targets which collectively control actin filament homeostasis, thereby ensuring proper execution of actin-dependent proplatelet formation. Our study reveals a pivotal role for miR-142 activity in megakaryocyte maturation and function, and demonstrates a critical contribution of a single miRNA in orchestrating cytoskeletal dynamics and normal hemostasis.
eLife digest
DNA carries all the information needed for life. This includes the codes required for making proteins, as well as instructions on when, where, and how much of these proteins need to be produced. There are a number of ways by which cells control protein manufacturing, one of which is based on small RNAs called microRNAs. Before proteins are assembled, the DNA molecule is copied into a temporary replica dubbed messenger RNA. microRNAs are able to recognize specific messenger RNA molecules and block protein production.
microRNAs serve a very important regulatory role in our bodies and are involved in virtually all cellular processes, including the production of all classes of blood and immune cells. Platelets seal injuries and prevent excessive bleeding by creating a clot at the location of a wound. Platelets are produced in huge cellular factories called megakaryocytes, which need to have a flexible and dynamic internal skeleton or cytoskeleton to produce the platelets.
Chapnik et al. focus on one specific microRNA gene, which is vital for the production and the function of several classes of blood and immune cells. Chapnik et al. created a mouse model that does not produce one specific microRNA—miR-142—and found that mutant mice produced fewer platelets than normal mice. Although one possible explanation for this is that the mutant mice also had fewer megakaryocytes than normal, Chapnik et al. unexpectedly found that the number of megakaryocytes was in fact higher. However, these megakaryocytes do not reach functional maturity, which is required for platelet production. Many of the megakaryocytes made by the mutant mice were also smaller than normal and had an unusual cytoskeleton.
Using a genomic approach and molecular tools, Chapnik et al. show that miR-142 affects the production of several of the proteins responsible for the dynamic flexibility of the cytoskeleton in mature megakaryocytes. Therefore, a single microRNA can target multiple different proteins that coordinate the same pathway in the cells that are critical for clotting and hence for human health.
miR-142 has also been suggested to have important functions in blood stem cells and in blood cancer (leukemia). Therefore, the new mouse model could be used to investigate many other facets of the blood and immune system. Further research could also focus on whether the same cytoskeletal network is in charge of miR-142 activity in other blood cells, or if miR-142 silences different targets in different cells.
PMCID: PMC4067751  PMID: 24859754
microRNA; miR-142; actin; cytoskeleton; megakaryocytes; megakaryopoiesis; mouse
3.  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
4.  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
5.  Cell-Free Urinary MicroRNA-99a and MicroRNA-125b Are Diagnostic Markers for the Non-Invasive Screening of Bladder Cancer 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(7):e100793.
Evidence implicated the diagnostic significance of microRNAs in whole urine/urine sediments in urothelial carcinoma of the bladder (UCB). However, the contaminated blood cells in patients with haematouria significantly altered the expression profiles of urinary microRNA, influencing the test accuracy.
MicroRNA profiles of the urine supernatants of UCB patients and controls without any malignancy and profiles of malignant and corresponding normal mucosa tissues from the patients were determined by microRNA microarray and compared to identify differentially expressed microRNAs. The differential expression was verified in the tissues of an independent patient cohort by RT-qPCR. The diagnostic significance of selected microRNAs as biomarkers in the urine supernatant was investigated in the expanded cohorts.
MicroRNA-99a and microRNA-125b were down-regulated in the urine supernatants of UCB patients. The degree of down-regulation was associated with the tumor grade. A diagnostic model was developed using a combined index of the levels of microRNA-99a and microRNA-125b in the urine supernatant with a sensitivity of 86.7%, a specificity of 81.1% and a positive predicted value (PPV) of 91.8%. Discriminating between high- and low-grade UCB, the model using the level of microRNA-125b alone exhibited a sensitivity of 81.4%, a specificity of 87.0% and a PPV of 93.4%.
The results revealed a unique microRNA expression signature in the urine supernatants of UCB patients for the development of molecular diagnostic tests. An effective cell-free urinary microRNA-based model was developed using a combined index of the levels of microRNA-99a and microRNA-125b to detect UCB with good discriminating power, high sensitivity and high specificity.
PMCID: PMC4094487  PMID: 25014919
6.  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
7.  MicroRNA Expression Profiles as Biomarkers of Minor Salivary Gland Inflammation and Dysfunction in Sjögren's Syndrome 
Arthritis and rheumatism  2011;63(2):535-544.
MicroRNA reflect physiologic and pathologic processes and may be used as biomarkers of concurrent pathophysiologic events in complex settings such as autoimmune diseases. We generated microRNA microarray profiles from the minor salivary glands of control subjects without Sjögren's syndrome (SS) and patients with SS who had low-grade or high-grade inflammation and impaired or normal saliva production, to identify microRNA patterns specific to salivary gland inflammation or dysfunction.
MicroRNA expression profiles were generated by Agilent microRNA arrays. We developed a novel method for data normalization by identifying housekeeping microRNA. MicroRNA profiles were compared by unsupervised mathematical methods to test how well they distinguish between control subjects and various subsets of patients with SS. Several bioinformatics methods were used to predict the messenger RNA targets of the differentially expressed microRNA.
MicroRNA expression patterns accurately distinguished salivary glands from control subjects and patients with SS who had low-degree or high-degree inflammation. Using real-time quantitative polymerase chain reaction, we validated 2 microRNA as markers of inflammation in an independent cohort. Comparing microRNA from patients with preserved or low salivary flow identified a set of differentially expressed microRNA, most of which were up-regulated in the group with decreased salivary gland function, suggesting that the targets of microRNA may have a protective effect on epithelial cells. The predicted biologic targets of microRNA associated with inflammation or salivary gland dysfunction identified both overlapping and distinct biologic pathways and processes.
Distinct microRNA expression patterns are associated with salivary gland inflammation and dysfunction in patients with SS, and microRNA represent a novel group of potential biomarkers.
PMCID: PMC3653295  PMID: 21280008
8.  microRNA Target Predictions across Seven Drosophila Species and Comparison to Mammalian Targets 
PLoS Computational Biology  2005;1(1):e13.
microRNAs are small noncoding genes that regulate the protein production of genes by binding to partially complementary sites in the mRNAs of targeted genes. Here, using our algorithm PicTar, we exploit cross-species comparisons to predict, on average, 54 targeted genes per microRNA above noise in Drosophila melanogaster. Analysis of the functional annotation of target genes furthermore suggests specific biological functions for many microRNAs. We also predict combinatorial targets for clustered microRNAs and find that some clustered microRNAs are likely to coordinately regulate target genes. Furthermore, we compare microRNA regulation between insects and vertebrates. We find that the widespread extent of gene regulation by microRNAs is comparable between flies and mammals but that certain microRNAs may function in clade-specific modes of gene regulation. One of these microRNAs (miR-210) is predicted to contribute to the regulation of fly oogenesis. We also list specific regulatory relationships that appear to be conserved between flies and mammals. Our findings provide the most extensive microRNA target predictions in Drosophila to date, suggest specific functional roles for most microRNAs, indicate the existence of coordinate gene regulation executed by clustered microRNAs, and shed light on the evolution of microRNA function across large evolutionary distances. All predictions are freely accessible at our searchable Web site
MicroRNA genes are a recently discovered large class of small noncoding genes. These genes have been shown to regulate the expression of target genes by binding to partially complementary sites in the mRNAs of the targets. To understand microRNA function it is thus important to identify their targets. Here, the authors use their bioinformatic method, PicTar, and cross-species comparisons of several newly sequenced fly species to predict, genome wide, targets of microRNAs in Drosophila. They find that known fly microRNAs control at least 15% of all genes in D. melanogaster. They also show that genomic clusters of microRNAs are likely to coordinately regulate target genes. Analysis of the functional annotation of target genes furthermore suggests specific biological functions for many microRNAs. All predictions are freely accessible at Finally, Grün et al. compare the function of microRNAs across flies and mammals. They find that (a) the overall extent of microRNA gene regulation is comparable between both clades, (b) the number of targets for a conserved microRNA in flies correlates with the number of targets in mammals, (c) some conserved microRNAs may function in clade-specific modes of gene regulation, and (d) some specific microRNA–target regulatory relationships may be conserved between both clades.
PMCID: PMC1183519  PMID: 16103902
9.  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
10.  Target Repression Induced by Endogenous microRNAs: Large Differences, Small Effects 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(8):e104286.
MicroRNAs are small RNAs that regulate protein levels. It is commonly assumed that the expression level of a microRNA is directly correlated with its repressive activity – that is, highly expressed microRNAs will repress their target mRNAs more. Here we investigate the quantitative relationship between endogenous microRNA expression and repression for 32 mature microRNAs in Drosophila melanogaster S2 cells. In general, we find that more abundant microRNAs repress their targets to a greater degree. However, the relationship between expression and repression is nonlinear, such that a 10-fold greater microRNA concentration produces only a 10% increase in target repression. The expression/repression relationship is the same for both dominant guide microRNAs and minor mature products (so-called passenger strands/microRNA* sequences). However, we find examples of microRNAs whose cellular concentrations differ by several orders of magnitude, yet induce similar repression of target mRNAs. Likewise, microRNAs with similar expression can have very different repressive abilities. We show that the association of microRNAs with Argonaute proteins does not explain this variation in repression. The observed relationship is consistent with the limiting step in target repression being the association of the microRNA/RISC complex with the target site. These findings argue that modest changes in cellular microRNA concentration will have minor effects on repression of targets.
PMCID: PMC4139194  PMID: 25141277
11.  Proteomic Screening of Human Targets of Viral microRNAs Reveals Functions Associated with Immune Evasion and Angiogenesis 
PLoS Pathogens  2013;9(9):e1003584.
Kaposi's sarcoma (KS) is caused by infection with Kaposi's sarcoma-associated herpesvirus (KSHV). The virus expresses unique microRNAs (miRNAs), but the targets and functions of these miRNAs are not completely understood. In order to identify human targets of viral miRNAs, we measured protein expression changes caused by multiple KSHV miRNAs using pulsed stable labeling with amino acids in cell culture (pSILAC) in primary endothelial cells. This led to the identification of multiple human genes that are repressed at the protein level, but not at the miRNA level. Further analysis also identified that KSHV miRNAs can modulate activity or expression of upstream regulatory factors, resulting in suppressed activation of a protein involved in leukocyte recruitment (ICAM1) following lysophosphatidic acid treatment, as well as up-regulation of a pro-angiogenic protein (HIF1α), and up-regulation of a protein involved in stimulating angiogenesis (HMOX1). This study aids in our understanding of miRNA mechanisms of repression and miRNA contributions to viral pathogenesis.
Author Summary
Kaposi's sarcoma-associated herpesvirus is the virus associated with multiple proliferative disorders, including Kaposi's sarcoma, primary effusion lymphoma and multicentric Castleman's disease. This virus expresses small nucleic acids (with sequences distinct from other organisms), called microRNAs, that can limit expression of specific genes. Currently, we only know a few validated targets of these viral microRNAs and the mechanisms of microRNA-mediated repression are still being actively debated. We used a method to look at protein expression changes induced by these viral microRNAs to better understand microRNA targets and functions. The method we describe here found microRNA targets that are missed by other approaches. In addition to identifying previous microRNA targets and discovering new microRNA targets, we found the function of specific viral microRNAs to be associated with immune evasion and the expansion of blood vessel networks, a hallmark of Kaposi's sarcoma. The results may be a resource for those studying microRNAs from other organisms, and furthermore, the microRNA functions described provide mechanistic insight into viral pathogenesis and immune evasion.
PMCID: PMC3764211  PMID: 24039573
12.  Sex-Biased Expression of MicroRNAs in Schistosoma mansoni 
Schistosomiasis is an important neglected tropical disease caused by digenean helminth parasites of the genus Schistosoma. Schistosomes are unusual in that they are dioecious and the adult worms live in the blood system. MicroRNAs play crucial roles during gene regulation and are likely to be important in sex differentiation in dioecious species. Here we characterize 112 microRNAs from adult Schistosoma mansoni individuals, including 84 novel microRNA families, and investigate the expression pattern in different sexes. By deep sequencing, we measured the relative expression levels of conserved and newly identified microRNAs between male and female samples. We observed that 13 microRNAs exhibited sex-biased expression, 10 of which are more abundant in females than in males. Sex chromosomes showed a paucity of female-biased genes, as predicted by theoretical evolutionary models. We propose that the recent emergence of separate sexes in Schistosoma had an effect on the chromosomal distribution and evolution of microRNAs, and that microRNAs are likely to participate in the sex differentiation/maintenance process.
Author Summary
Schistosomiasis is the second most common disease caused by a parasite, affecting over 200 million people. The parasites involved are flatworms of the genus Schistosoma. Unlike most non-parasitic flatworms, Schistosoma species have separate sexes, and the emergence of sex has been associated with the development of a parasitic lifestyle. The identification of gene products that are expressed in a sex-biased fashion permits the study of the origin of sexual dimorphism and, in the case of the schistosomes, the evolution of a human parasite. Here we investigated the differential expression of microRNAs in male and female individuals of the species Schistosoma mansoni. MicroRNAs are crucial gene regulators. We observed that many new microRNAs emerged in the evolutionary lineage leading to the schistosomes. However, many sex-biased microRNAs were present in the hermaphrodite ancestor of the flatworms, and therefore acquired sex-biased expression later on. Our results suggest that changes in microRNA expression patterns were associated with the emergence of separate sexes in the schistosomes.
PMCID: PMC3772069  PMID: 24069470
13.  Identification of microRNAs specific for high producer CHO cell lines using steady-state cultivation 
Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology  2014;98(17):7535-7548.
MicroRNAs are short non-coding RNAs that play an important role in the regulation of gene expression. Hence, microRNAs are considered as potential targets for engineering of Chinese hamster ovary (CHO) cells to improve recombinant protein production. Here, we analyzed and compared the microRNA expression patterns of high, low, and non-producing recombinant CHO cell lines expressing two structurally different model proteins in order to identify microRNAs that are involved in heterologous protein synthesis and secretion and thus might be promising targets for cell engineering to increase productivity. To generate reproducible and comparable data, the cells were cultivated in a bioreactor under steady-state conditions. Global microRNA expression analysis showed that mature microRNAs were predominantly upregulated in the producing cell lines compared to the non-producer. Several microRNAs were significantly differentially expressed between high and low producers, but none of them commonly for both model proteins. The identification of target messenger RNAs (mRNAs) is essential to understand the biological function of microRNAs. Therefore, we negatively correlated microRNA and global mRNA expression data and combined them with computationally predicted and experimentally validated targets. However, statistical analysis of the identified microRNA-mRNA interactions indicated a considerable false positive rate. Our results and the comparison to published data suggest that the reaction of CHO cells to the heterologous protein expression is strongly product- and/or clone-specific. In addition, this study highlights the urgent need for reliable CHO-specific microRNA target prediction tools and experimentally validated target databases in order to facilitate functional analysis of high-throughput microRNA expression data in CHO cells.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s00253-014-5911-4) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4139590  PMID: 25052466
Chinese hamster ovary cells; Productivity; Chemostat; Microarray; miRNA expression profiling; miRNA target identification
14.  Microarray analysis of microRNA expression in the developing mammalian brain 
Genome Biology  2004;5(9):R68.
A microarray technology suitable for analyzing the expression of microRNAs and of other small RNAs was used to determine the microRNA expression profile during mouse-brain development and observed a temporal wave of gene expression of sequential classes of microRNAs.
MicroRNAs are a large new class of tiny regulatory RNAs found in nematodes, plants, insects and mammals. MicroRNAs are thought to act as post-transcriptional modulators of gene expression. In invertebrates microRNAs have been implicated as regulators of developmental timing, neuronal differentiation, cell proliferation, programmed cell death and fat metabolism. Little is known about the roles of microRNAs in mammals.
We isolated 18-26 nucleotide RNAs from developing rat and monkey brains. From the sequences of these RNAs and the sequences of the rat and human genomes we determined which of these small RNAs are likely to have derived from stem-loop precursors typical of microRNAs. Next, we developed a microarray technology suitable for detecting microRNAs and printed a microRNA microarray representing 138 mammalian microRNAs corresponding to the sequences of the microRNAs we cloned as well as to other known microRNAs. We used this microarray to determine the profile of microRNAs expressed in the developing mouse brain. We observed a temporal wave of expression of microRNAs, suggesting that microRNAs play important roles in the development of the mammalian brain.
We describe a microarray technology that can be used to analyze the expression of microRNAs and of other small RNAs. MicroRNA microarrays offer a new tool that should facilitate studies of the biological roles of microRNAs. We used this method to determine the microRNA expression profile during mouse brain development and observed a temporal wave of gene expression of sequential classes of microRNAs.
PMCID: PMC522875  PMID: 15345052
15.  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
16.  MicroRNA-146a acts as a guardian of the quality and longevity of hematopoietic stem cells in mice 
eLife  2013;2:e00537.
During inflammation and infection, hematopoietic stem and progenitor cells are stimulated to proliferate and differentiate into mature immune cells, especially of the myeloid lineage. MicroRNA-146a (miR-146a) is a critical negative regulator of inflammation. Deletion of miR-146a produces effects that appear as dysregulated inflammatory hematopoiesis, leading to a decline in the number and quality of hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs), excessive myeloproliferation, and, ultimately, to HSC exhaustion and hematopoietic neoplasms. At the cellular level, the defects are attributable to both an intrinsic problem in the miR-146a–deficient HSCs and extrinsic effects of lymphocytes and nonhematopoietic cells. At the molecular level, this involves a molecular axis consisting of miR-146a, signaling protein TRAF6, transcriptional factor NF-κB, and cytokine IL-6. This study has identified miR-146a to be a critical regulator of HSC homeostasis during chronic inflammation in mice and provided a molecular connection between chronic inflammation and the development of bone marrow failure and myeloproliferative neoplasms.
eLife digest
Hematopoietic stem cells are cells that both renew themselves and develop into any type of blood cell, including red blood cells and the several classes of immune cells. When an injury or infection occurs, it is vital that hematopoietic stem cells replenish themselves in addition to developing into the new blood cells that are needed to help the body recover. Injury and infection also lead to the inflammatory response: tissue becomes inflamed as cytokines and other molecules are released at the site of the damage to help maintain the body’s immunity. It is thought that inflammatory molecules directly affect the rate at which stem cells become immune cells, with the protein NF-κB having an important role, but the details of this process are not fully understood.
To explore the connections between hematopoietic stem cells and the inflammatory response, Zhao et al. bred mice that do not produce a type of RNA called microRNA-146a. In wild-type mice, this RNA would inhibit the production of NF-κB, so the mutant mice have abnormally high levels of NF-κB. They found that the rate at which stem cells were being converted into immune cells in the mutant mice was so high that the stores of stems cells became exhausted, which was very detrimental to the health of the mice. They also went on to identify the signaling pathways that microRNA-146a influences in order to maintain supplies of stem cells and an adequate inflammatory response in healthy mice.
Zhao et al. also studied individuals with human myelodysplastic syndrome, a severe blood disorder that is associated with faulty hematopoietic stem cells, and found that these individuals produce relatively little microRNA-146a. The establishment of a link between microRNA-146a and having an adequate level of hematopoietic stem cells could have implications for human health, given the importance of these cells in both the aging process and the immune response.
PMCID: PMC3660742  PMID: 23705069
hematopoiesis; inflammation; microRNA; HSC; cancer; NF-kappaB; Mouse
17.  Genome-wide microRNA changes in human intracranial aneurysms 
BMC Neurology  2014;14(1):188.
Intracranial aneurysms are pathological dilatations of the cerebral artery, while rupture of intracranial aneurysms causes life-threatening subarachnoid hemorrhage. The molecular mechanisms of pathogenesis of intracranial aneurysms are poorly understood. MicroRNAs have fundamental roles in modulating vascular biology and disease. In the present study, we carried out a genome-wide characterization on expressions of microRNAs, and performed integrative analyses in conjunction with changes of the transcriptome in human intracranial aneurysms.
Genome-wide microRNA screening was performed in 6 intracranial aneurysmal samples and 6 normal superficial temporal arteries. Each case and control pair was individually matched with gender, age (±5 years), and high blood pressure history. Microarray analysis was performed using Agilent Human miRNA arrays.
As compared to normal arteries, we identified 157 microRNAs that were differentially expressed in the aneurysmal tissue (P < 0.05 and fold change ≥ 2), including 72 upregulated and 85 downregulated. The changed microRNAs included endothelium-enriched microRNAs such as members of the let-7 family, miR-17, miR-23b, miR-126, hsa-miR-24-1 and miR-222, and vascular smooth muscle-enriched miRNAs such as miR-143 and miR-145. Moreover, miR-1, miR-10a, miR-125b, and miR-26a, which were implicated in modulating vascular smooth muscle cell functions such as proliferation, apoptosis and shift of phenotype, were also changed. In contrast, microRNAs involved in monocyte and macrophage functions, such as miR-155, miR-146a, miR-223, and miR-124a, were not significantly changed. Bioinformatic analysis revealed that the changed microRNAs were associated with several biological processes related to aneurysm formation, including inflammation, dysregulation of extracellular matrix, smooth muscle cell proliferation, programmed cell death, and response to oxidative stress. Interestingly, we found that a subset of the potential microRNA target genes belonged to the protein translation machinery, including various eukaryotic translation initiation factors and ribosomal proteins, and this finding was highly correlated with our previous transcriptome data showing that multiple genes of the ribosomal proteins and translation initiation and elongation factors were significantly downregulated in human intracranial aneurysms.
Our results support that dysregulated microRNAs may have a pathogenic role in intracranial aneurysms. Disruption of the protein translation process may have a pathogenic role in the development of intracranial aneurysms.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12883-014-0188-x) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4210474  PMID: 25300531
Intracranial aneurysm; microRNA; Microarray; Human; Cerebral vascular disease; System biology; Transcriptome; Protein translation machinery
18.  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
19.  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
20.  Integrated analysis of microRNA and mRNA expression and association with HIF binding reveals the complexity of microRNA expression regulation under hypoxia 
Molecular Cancer  2014;13:28.
In mammalians, HIF is a master regulator of hypoxia gene expression through direct binding to DNA, while its role in microRNA expression regulation, critical in the hypoxia response, is not elucidated genome wide. Our aim is to investigate in depth the regulation of microRNA expression by hypoxia in the breast cancer cell line MCF-7, establish the relationship between microRNA expression and HIF binding sites, pri-miRNA transcription and microRNA processing gene expression.
MCF-7 cells were incubated at 1% Oxygen for 16, 32 and 48 h. SiRNA against HIF-1α and HIF-2α were performed as previously published. MicroRNA and mRNA expression were assessed using microRNA microarrays, small RNA sequencing, gene expression microarrays and Real time PCR. The Kraken pipeline was applied for microRNA-seq analysis along with Bioconductor packages. Microarray data was analysed using Limma (Bioconductor), ChIP-seq data were analysed using Gene Set Enrichment Analysis and multiple testing correction applied in all analyses.
Hypoxia time course microRNA sequencing data analysis identified 41 microRNAs significantly up- and 28 down-regulated, including hsa-miR-4521, hsa-miR-145-3p and hsa-miR-222-5p reported in conjunction with hypoxia for the first time. Integration of HIF-1α and HIF-2α ChIP-seq data with expression data showed overall association between binding sites and microRNA up-regulation, with hsa-miR-210-3p and microRNAs of miR-27a/23a/24-2 and miR-30b/30d clusters as predominant examples. Moreover the expression of hsa-miR-27a-3p and hsa-miR-24-3p was found positively associated to a hypoxia gene signature in breast cancer. Gene expression analysis showed no full coordination between pri-miRNA and microRNA expression, pointing towards additional levels of regulation. Several transcripts involved in microRNA processing were found regulated by hypoxia, of which DICER (down-regulated) and AGO4 (up-regulated) were HIF dependent. DICER expression was found inversely correlated to hypoxia in breast cancer.
Integrated analysis of microRNA, mRNA and ChIP-seq data in a model cell line supports the hypothesis that microRNA expression under hypoxia is regulated at transcriptional and post-transcriptional level, with the presence of HIF binding sites at microRNA genomic loci associated with up-regulation. The identification of hypoxia and HIF regulated microRNAs relevant for breast cancer is important for our understanding of disease development and design of therapeutic interventions.
PMCID: PMC3928101  PMID: 24517586
MicroRNA; Hypoxia; HIF; Transcription factor; Gene regulation
21.  Analysis of deep sequencing microRNA expression profile from human embryonic stem cells derived mesenchymal stem cells reveals possible role of let-7 microRNA family in downstream targeting of Hepatic Nuclear Factor 4 Alpha 
BMC Genomics  2010;11(Suppl 1):S6.
Recent literature has revealed that genetic exchange of microRNA between cells can be essential for cell-cell communication, tissue-specificity and developmental processes. In stem cells, as in other cells, this can be accomplished through microvesicles or exosome mediated transfer. However, molecular profiles and functions of microRNAs within the cells and in their exosomes are poorly studied. Next generation sequencing technologies could provide a broad-spectrum of microRNAs and their expression and identify possible microRNA targets. In this work, we performed deep sequencing of microRNAs to understand the profile and expression of the microRNAs in microvesicles and intracellular environment of human embryonic stem cells derived mesenchymal stem cells (hES-MSC).
We outline a workflow pertaining to visualizing, statistical analysis and interpreting deep sequencing data of known intracellular and extracellular microRNAs from hES-MSC). We utilized these results of which directed our attention towards establishing hepatic nuclear factor 4 alpha (HNF4A) as a downstream target of let-7 family of microRNAs.
In our study, significant differences in expression profile of microRNAs were found in the intracellular and extracellular environment of hES-MSC. However, a high level of let-7 family of microRNAs is predominant in both intra- and extra- cellular samples of hES-MSC. Further results derived from visualization of our alignment data and network analysis showed that let-7 family microRNAs could affect the downstream target HNF4A, which is a known endodermal differentiation marker. The elevated presence of let-7 microRNA in both intracellular and extra cellular environment further suggests a possible intercellular signalling mechanism through microvesicles transfer. We suggest that let-7 family microRNAs might play a signalling role via such a mechanism amongst populations of stem cells in maintaining self renewal property by suppressing HNF4A expression. This is in line with recent paradigm where microRNAs regulate self-renewal and differentiation pathways of embryonic stem cells by forming an integral biological network with transcription factors.
In summary, our study using a combination of alignment, statistical and network analysis tools to examine deep sequencing data of microRNAs in hES-MSC has led to a result that (i) identifies intracellular and exosome microRNA expression profiles of hES-MSCwith a possible mechanism of miRNA mediated intercellular regulation by these cells and (ii) placed HNF4A within the cross roads of regulation by the let-7 family of microRNAs.
PMCID: PMC2822534  PMID: 20158877
22.  MicroRNA Expression Profiles of Whole Blood in Lung Adenocarcinoma 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(9):e46045.
The association of lung cancer with changes in microRNAs in plasma shown in multiple studies suggests a utility for circulating microRNA biomarkers in non-invasive detection of the disease. We examined if presence of lung cancer is reflected in whole blood microRNA expression as well, possibly because of a systemic response. Locked nucleic acid microarrays were used to quantify the global expression of microRNAs in whole blood of 22 patients with lung adenocarcinoma and 23 controls, ten of whom had a radiographically detected non-cancerous lung nodule and the other 13 were at high risk for developing lung cancer because of a smoking history of >20 pack-years. Cases and controls differed significantly for age with a mean difference of 10.7 years, but not for gender, race, smoking history, blood hemoglobin, platelet count, or white blood cell count. Of 1282 quantified human microRNAs, 395 (31%) were identified as expressed in the study’s subjects, with 96 (24%) differentially expressed between cases and controls. Classification analyses of microRNA expression data were performed using linear kernel support vector machines (SVM) and top-scoring pairs (TSP) methods, and classifiers to identify presence of lung adenocarcinoma were internally cross-validated. In leave-one-out cross-validation, the TSP classifiers had sensitivity and specificity of 91% and 100%, respectively. The values with SVM were both 91%. In a Monte Carlo cross-validation, average sensitivity and specificity values were 86% and 97%, respectively, with TSP, and 88% and 89%, respectively, with SVM. MicroRNAs miR-190b, miR-630, miR-942, and miR-1284 were the most frequent constituents of the classifiers generated during the analyses. These results suggest that whole blood microRNA expression profiles can be used to distinguish lung cancer cases from clinically relevant controls. Further studies are needed to validate this observation, including in non-adenocarcinomatous lung cancers, and to clarify upon the confounding effect of age.
PMCID: PMC3460960  PMID: 23029380
23.  MicroRNA-126 Inhibits Tumor Cell Growth and Its Expression Level Correlates with Poor Survival in Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer Patients 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(8):e42978.
It is controversial whether microRNA-126 is a tumor suppressive or oncogenic miRNA. More experiments are needed to determine whether microRNA-126 is associated with non-small cell lung cancer risk and prognosis.
Over-expression of microRNA-126 was performed to evaluate the cell invasion and tumor growth in non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) cell lines and nude mouse xenograft model. Gain-of-function experiments and luciferase assays were performed to reveal the relationship between microRNA-126 and PI3K-Akt signal pathway in A549 cells. We analyzed the associations of the microRNA-126 expression between genetic variants within microRNA-126 and clinical information including smoking status, sex, age, and histological type and the tumor stage.
Over-expression of microRNA-126 in NSCLC cell lines decreased cell proliferation in vitro and tumor growth in the nude mouse xenograft model. And microRNA-126 repressed the activity of PI3K-Akt pathway by targeting binding sites in the 3′-untranslated region of PI3KR2 mRNA. The expression level of microRNA-126 was decreased in NSCLC lines and tumor tissues. The patients with low microRNA-126 expression had significantly poorer survival time than those with high microRNA-126 expression (means for survival time (month): 24.392±1.055 vs. 29.282±1.140, P = 0.005). However, there was no significant difference in the genotype and allele frequencies of the microRNA-126 variant (G>A, rs4636297) between cases and controls (P = 0.366). In addition, there was no association between SNP rs4636297 and survival time in NSCLC patients (P = 0.992). And microRNA-126 expression had no significant difference among the three genotype groups (P = 0.972).
Our data indicate that microRNA-126 is a tumor-suppressor gene in NSCLC and low microRNA-126 expression is a unfavorable prognostic factor in NSCLC patients. However, the regulatory mechanism of microRNA-126 remains to be elucidated in different normal and malignant tissues. Therefore, further research is needed to explore the tumor suppressive functions of microRNA-126 in NSCLC.
PMCID: PMC3416793  PMID: 22900072
24.  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
25.  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

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