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1.  MicroRNA-3148 Modulates Allelic Expression of Toll-Like Receptor 7 Variant Associated with Systemic Lupus Erythematosus 
PLoS Genetics  2013;9(2):e1003336.
We previously reported that the G allele of rs3853839 at 3′untranslated region (UTR) of Toll-like receptor 7 (TLR7) was associated with elevated transcript expression and increased risk for systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) in 9,274 Eastern Asians [P = 6.5×10−10, odds ratio (OR) (95%CI) = 1.27 (1.17–1.36)]. Here, we conducted trans-ancestral fine-mapping in 13,339 subjects including European Americans, African Americans, and Amerindian/Hispanics and confirmed rs3853839 as the only variant within the TLR7-TLR8 region exhibiting consistent and independent association with SLE (Pmeta = 7.5×10−11, OR = 1.24 [1.18–1.34]). The risk G allele was associated with significantly increased levels of TLR7 mRNA and protein in peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) and elevated luciferase activity of reporter gene in transfected cells. TLR7 3′UTR sequence bearing the non-risk C allele of rs3853839 matches a predicted binding site of microRNA-3148 (miR-3148), suggesting that this microRNA may regulate TLR7 expression. Indeed, miR-3148 levels were inversely correlated with TLR7 transcript levels in PBMCs from SLE patients and controls (R2 = 0.255, P = 0.001). Overexpression of miR-3148 in HEK-293 cells led to significant dose-dependent decrease in luciferase activity for construct driven by TLR7 3′UTR segment bearing the C allele (P = 0.0003). Compared with the G-allele construct, the C-allele construct showed greater than two-fold reduction of luciferase activity in the presence of miR-3148. Reduced modulation by miR-3148 conferred slower degradation of the risk G-allele containing TLR7 transcripts, resulting in elevated levels of gene products. These data establish rs3853839 of TLR7 as a shared risk variant of SLE in 22,613 subjects of Asian, EA, AA, and Amerindian/Hispanic ancestries (Pmeta = 2.0×10−19, OR = 1.25 [1.20–1.32]), which confers allelic effect on transcript turnover via differential binding to the epigenetic factor miR-3148.
Author Summary
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is a debilitating autoimmune disease contributed to by excessive innate immune activation involving toll-like receptors (TLRs, particularly TLR7/8/9) and type I interferon (IFN) signaling pathways. TLR7 responds against RNA–containing nuclear antigens and activates IFN-α pathway, playing a pivotal role in the development of SLE. While a genomic duplication of Tlr7 promotes lupus-like disease in the Y-linked autoimmune accelerator (Yaa) murine model, the lack of common copy number variations at TLR7 in humans led us to identify a functional single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP), rs3853839 at 3′ UTR of the TLR7 gene, associated with SLE susceptibility in Eastern Asians. In this study, we fine-mapped the TLR7-TLR8 region and confirmed rs3853839 exhibiting the strongest association with SLE in European Americans, African Americans, and Amerindian/Hispanics. Individuals carrying the risk G allele of rs3853839 exhibited increased TLR7 expression at the both mRNA and protein level and decreased transcript degradation. MicroRNA-3148 (miR-3148) downregulated the expression of non-risk allele (C) containing transcripts preferentially, suggesting a likely mechanism for increased TLR7 levels in risk-allele carriers. This trans-ancestral mapping provides evidence for the global association with SLE risk at rs3853839, which resides in a microRNA–gene regulatory site affecting TLR7 expression.
PMCID: PMC3585142  PMID: 23468661
2.  A Functional Variant in MicroRNA-146a Promoter Modulates Its Expression and Confers Disease Risk for Systemic Lupus Erythematosus 
PLoS Genetics  2011;7(6):e1002128.
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is a complex autoimmune disease with a strong genetic predisposition, characterized by an upregulated type I interferon pathway. MicroRNAs are important regulators of immune homeostasis, and aberrant microRNA expression has been demonstrated in patients with autoimmune diseases. We recently identified miR-146a as a negative regulator of the interferon pathway and linked the abnormal activation of this pathway to the underexpression of miR-146a in SLE patients. To explore why the expression of miR-146a is reduced in SLE patients, we conducted short parallel sequencing of potentially regulatory regions of miR-146a and identified a novel genetic variant (rs57095329) in the promoter region exhibiting evidence for association with SLE that was replicated independently in 7,182 Asians (Pmeta = 2.74×10−8, odds ratio = 1.29 [1.18–1.40]). The risk-associated G allele was linked to reduced expression of miR-146a in the peripheral blood leukocytes of the controls. Combined functional assays showed that the risk-associated G allele reduced the protein-binding affinity and activity of the promoter compared with those of the promoter containing the protective A allele. Transcription factor Ets-1, encoded by the lupus-susceptibility gene ETS1, identified in recent genome-wide association studies, binds near this variant. The manipulation of Ets-1 levels strongly affected miR-146a promoter activity in vitro; and the knockdown of Ets-1, mimicking its reduced expression in SLE, directly impaired the induction of miR-146a. We also observed additive effects of the risk alleles of miR-146a and ETS1. Our data identified and confirmed an association between a functional promoter variant of miR-146a and SLE. This risk allele had decreased binding to transcription factor Ets-1, contributing to reduced levels of miR-146a in SLE patients.
Author Summary
Genome-wide association studies have identified quite a number of susceptibility loci associated with complex diseases such as systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). However, for most of them, the intrinsic link between genetic variation and disease mechanism is not fully understood. SLE is characterized by a significantly upregulated type I interferon (IFN) pathway, and we have previously reported that underexpression of a microRNA, miR-146a, contributes to alterations in the type I IFN pathway in lupus patients. Here we identified a novel genetic variant in the promoter region of miR-146a that is directly related to reduced expression of miR-146a and is associated with SLE susceptibility. The risk allele of this variant confers weaker binding affinity for Ets-1, which is a transcription factor encoded by a lupus susceptibility gene found in recent GWAS. These findings suggest that reduced expression of Ets-1 and its reduced binding affinity to the miR-146a promoter both may contribute to low levels of this microRNA in SLE patients, which may contribute to the upregulated type I IFN pathway in these patients. To our knowledge, this is also the first piece of evidence showing association between a genetic variant in a promoter region of a miRNA gene and a human disease.
PMCID: PMC3128113  PMID: 21738483
3.  Kaposi's Sarcoma-Associated Herpesvirus MicroRNA Single-Nucleotide Polymorphisms Identified in Clinical Samples Can Affect MicroRNA Processing, Level of Expression, and Silencing Activity 
Journal of Virology  2013;87(22):12237-12248.
Kaposi's sarcoma-associated herpesvirus (KSHV) encodes 12 pre-microRNAs that can produce 25 KSHV mature microRNAs. We previously reported single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in KSHV-encoded pre-microRNA and mature microRNA sequences from clinical samples (V. Marshall et al., J. Infect. Dis., 195:645–659, 2007). To determine whether microRNA SNPs affect pre-microRNA processing and, ultimately, mature microRNA expression levels, we performed a detailed comparative analysis of (i) mature microRNA expression levels, (ii) in vitro Drosha/Dicer processing, and (iii) RNA-induced silencing complex-dependent targeting of wild-type (wt) and variant microRNA genes. Expression of pairs of wt and variant pre-microRNAs from retroviral vectors and measurement of KSHV mature microRNA expression by real-time reverse transcription-PCR (RT-PCR) revealed differential expression levels that correlated with the presence of specific sequence polymorphisms. Measurement of KSHV mature microRNA expression in a panel of primary effusion lymphoma cell lines by real-time RT-PCR recapitulated some observed expression differences but suggested a more complex relationship between sequence differences and expression of mature microRNA. Furthermore, in vitro maturation assays demonstrated significant SNP-associated changes in Drosha/DGCR8 and/or Dicer processing. These data demonstrate that SNPs within KSHV-encoded pre-microRNAs are associated with differential microRNA expression levels. Given the multiple reports on the involvement of microRNAs in cancer, the biological significance of these phenotypic and genotypic variants merits further studies in patients with KSHV-associated malignancies.
PMCID: PMC3807933  PMID: 24006441
4.  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
5.  Human Cytomegalovirus miR-UL112-3p Targets TLR2 and Modulates the TLR2/IRAK1/NFκB Signaling Pathway 
PLoS Pathogens  2015;11(5):e1004881.
Human Cytomegalovirus (HCMV) encodes multiple microRNAs (miRNAs) whose functions are just beginning to be uncovered. Using in silico approaches, we identified the Toll-Like Receptor (TLR) innate immunity pathway as a possible target of HCMV miRNAs. Luciferase reporter assay screens further identified TLR2 as a target of HCMV miR-UL112-3p. TLR2 plays a major role in innate immune response by detecting both bacterial and viral ligands, including HCMV envelope proteins gB and gH. TLR2 activates a variety of signal transduction routes including the NFκB pathway. Furthermore, TLR2 plays an important role in controlling CMV infection both in humans and in mice. Immunoblot analysis of cells transfected with a miR-UL112-3p mimic revealed that endogenous TLR2 is down-regulated by miR-UL112-3p with similar efficiency as a TLR2-targeting siRNA (siTLR2). We next found that TLR2 protein level decreases at late times during HCMV infection and correlates with miR-UL112-3p accumulation in fibroblasts and monocytic THP1 cells. Confirming direct miR-UL112-3p targeting, down-regulation of endogenous TLR2 was not observed in cells infected with HCMV mutants deficient in miR-UL112-3p expression, but transfection of miR-UL112-3p in these cells restored TLR2 down-regulation. Using a NFκB reporter cell line, we found that miR-UL112-3p transfection significantly inhibited NFκB-dependent luciferase activity with similar efficiency as siTLR2. Consistent with this observation, miR-UL112-3p transfection significantly reduced the expression of multiple cytokines (IL-1β, IL-6 and IL-8) upon stimulation with a TLR2 agonist. Finally, miR-UL112-3p transfection significantly inhibited the TLR2-induced post-translational activation of IRAK1, a kinase located in the upstream section of the TLR2/NFκB signaling axis. To our knowledge, this is the first identified mechanism of TLR2 modulation by HCMV and is the first report of functional targeting of TLR2 by a viral miRNA. These results provide a novel mechanism through which a HCMV miRNA regulates the innate immune response by down-regulating TLR-2 expression.
Author Summary
Human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) is a herpesvirus that is a leading cause of congenital defects in newborns and can be deadly in people with weakened immunity. HCMV has developed multiple strategies to escape the host immune system. Among those, microRNAs (miRNAs) are short regulatory RNAs that target gene transcripts through sequence complementarity. HCMV expresses more than 20 miRNAs and several of them, in particular miR-UL112-3p, have been demonstrated to cooperate in evading the host antiviral immune response during infection. In this work we identified TLR2, a cell surface receptor that plays an important role in the detection and control of CMV infection, as a novel target of miR-UL112-3p. We demonstrate that miR-UL112-3p efficiently down-regulates endogenous TLR2 during infection, causing significant inhibition of the downstream signaling cascade. This work provides the first identified mechanism of TLR2 modulation by HCMV and is the first report of TLR2 targeting by a viral miRNA.
PMCID: PMC4425655  PMID: 25955717
6.  Antagonist-mediated down-regulation of toll-like receptors increases the prevalence of human papillomavirus infection in systemic lupus erythematosus 
Prevalence of an abnormal Papanicolaou smear was significantly increased in lupus patients in cross-sectional studies, associated with a higher prevalence of high-risk human papillomavirus (HPV) infection. The nucleic acid-specific Toll-like receptors (TLRs) locate at the endolysosomal compartments and trigger the induction of cytokines for the innate immune response. This study evaluated whether abnormal host innate immune response in lupus patients may enhance HPV persistence.
Protein levels of TLRs 3, 7, 8 and 9 in cervical epithelial cells of lupus patients and controls with or without HPV infection were assessed using flow cytometry. Characteristics associated with the differential expression of TLRs in systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) were elucidated. The effect and interferon-stimulated genes (ISGs) (ISG15 and Mx-1) gene expressions were then measured in oncogenic HeLa (HPV18), CaSki (HPV) and C33A (HPV negative) cell lines using flow cytometry and quantitative real-time PCR. Ex vivo productions of cytokines and interferon-gamma (IFN-γ) upon TLR ligands stimulations were subsequently measured using cytometric bead array and ELISA.
For subjects with HPV infection, levels of TLR3 and TLR7 were significantly lower in lupus patients compared with controls. Significantly decreased TLRs 7, 8 and 9 levels were observed in HPV-negative SLE compared to healthy controls. For SLE with and without HPV infection, TLR7 and 9 levels were significantly lower in infected SLE than those in HPV-negative patients. Independent explanatory variables associated with down-regulation of TLR7 level included HPV infection and a higher cumulative dose of prednisolone; while a higher cumulative dose of hydroxychloroquine and HPV infection were associated with down-regulation of TLR9 level. In cervical cell lines, TLRs 3, 7, 8, 9 protein levels and antiviral ISG15 and Mx-1 gene expressions were inhibited in two oncogenic HPV types. Functional data showed that the induction of pro-inflammatory cytokines by TLR ligands (R837, ssRNA and ODN2395) was greatly impaired in CaSki and HeLa than C33A cells.
In conclusion, prednisolone and TLR antagonist (hydroxychloroquine) may down-regulate protein levels of TLR7 and TLR9 in lupus patients, thereby decreasing the innate immune response against HPV infection. Upon infection, HPV further down-regulate TLR7 and 9 levels for viral persistence. Furthermore, reduction of nucleic acid-sensing TLRs 7, 8 and 9 in carcinogenic HPVs ensures that the expression of inducible pro-inflammatory cytokines is minimized to prevent the expression of antiviral ISGs (ISG15 and Mx-1) on a biologically relevant antiviral response.
PMCID: PMC3446454  PMID: 22513098
7.  Identification of Unique MicroRNA Signature Associated with Lupus Nephritis 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(5):e10344.
MicroRNAs (miRNA) have emerged as an important new class of modulators of gene expression. In this study we investigated miRNA that are differentially expressed in lupus nephritis. Microarray technology was used to investigate differentially expressed miRNA in peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) and Epstein-Barr Virus (EBV)-transformed cell lines obtained from lupus nephritis affected patients and unaffected controls. TaqMan-based stem-loop real-time polymerase chain reaction was used for validation. Microarray analysis of miRNA expressed in both African American (AA) and European American (EA) derived lupus nephritis samples revealed 29 and 50 differentially expressed miRNA, respectively, of 850 tested. There were 18 miRNA that were differentially expressed in both racial groups. When samples from both racial groups and different specimen types were considered, there were 5 primary miRNA that were differentially expressed. We have identified 5 miRNA; hsa-miR-371-5P, hsa-miR-423-5P, hsa-miR-638, hsa-miR-1224-3P and hsa-miR-663 that were differentially expressed in lupus nephritis across different racial groups and all specimen types tested. Hsa-miR-371-5P, hsa-miR-1224-3P and hsa-miR-423-5P, are reported here for the first time to be associated with lupus nephritis. Our work establishes EBV-transformed B cell lines as a useful model for the discovery of miRNA as biomarkers for SLE. Based on these findings, we postulate that these differentially expressed miRNA may be potential novel biomarkers for SLE as well as help elucidate pathogenic mechanisms of lupus nephritis. The investigation of miRNA profiles in SLE may lead to the discovery and development of novel methods to diagnosis, treat and prevent SLE.
PMCID: PMC2867940  PMID: 20485490
8.  TMEM106B, the risk gene for frontotemporal dementia, is regulated by the miRNA-132/212 cluster and affects progranulin pathways 
Frontotemporal lobar degeneration with TDP-43 inclusions (FTLD-TDP) is a fatal neurodegenerative disease with no available treatments. Mutations in the progranulin gene (GRN) causing impaired production or secretion of progranulin are a common Mendelian cause of FTLD-TDP; additionally, common variants at chromosome 7p21 in the uncharacterized gene TMEM106B were recently linked by genome-wide association to FTLD-TDP with and without GRN mutations. Here we show that TMEM106B is neuronally expressed in postmortem human brain tissue, and that expression levels are increased in FTLD-TDP brain. Furthermore, using an unbiased, microarray-based screen of over 800 microRNAs, we identify microRNA-132 as the top microRNA differentiating FTLD-TDP and control brains, with <50% normal expression levels of three members of the microRNA-132 cluster (microRNA-132, microRNA-132*, and microRNA-212) in disease. Computational analyses, corroborated empirically, demonstrate that the top mRNA target of both microRNA-132 and microRNA-212 is TMEM106B; both microRNAs repress TMEM106B expression through shared microRNA-132/212 binding sites in the TMEM106B 3’UTR. Increasing TMEM106B expression to model disease results in enlargement and poor acidification of endo-lysosomes, as well as impairment of mannose-6-phosphate-receptor trafficking. Finally, endogenous neuronal TMEM106B co-localizes with progranulin in late endo-lysosomes, and TMEM106B over-expression increases intracellular levels of progranulin. Thus, TMEM106B is an FTLD-TDP risk gene, with microRNA-132/212 depression as an event which can lead to aberrant over-expression of TMEM106B, which in turn alters progranulin pathways. Evidence for this pathogenic cascade includes the striking convergence of two independent, genomic-scale screens on a microRNA:mRNA regulatory pair. Our findings open novel directions for elucidating miRNA-based therapies in FTLD-TDP.
PMCID: PMC3446826  PMID: 22895706
Frontotemporal dementia; microRNA-132; microRNA-212; progranulin; TDP-43; frontotemporal lobar degeneration; TMEM106B
9.  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
10.  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
11.  Molecular mechanisms in the pathogenesis of sepsis  
Journal of Medicine and Life  2014;7(Spec Iss 2):38-41.
Innate immune system is a universal form of host defense against infections. The recognition of the innate immunity is based on a limited number of encoded receptors that have evolved to recognize microbial metabolism products. The recognition of these molecular structures allows the immune system to distinguish its own infectious components from non-communicable structures. The immune suppression is a hallmark of sepsis. The complement system is activated in the early stages of sepsis, generating large amounts of anaphylatoxin C5a. Complement and TLRs (toll-like receptors) family are two major upstream sensors and effectors systems of innate immunity. It was found that TLR4 and complement system are involved in the initiation of the inflammatory response in sepsis. Clinical studies in which TLR4 was blocked have not shown beneficial effects. TLRs, that are a subfamily of PRRs (pattern recognition receptors), have emerged as the crucial receptors for the recognition of DAMPs (Damage-associated molecular pattern molecules). Recently, a special form of non-coding genetic material called microRNA has been highlighted in the complex cascade of sepsis. The individual role of every microRNA and the exact role of microRNA network are under investigation. Currently, studies are performed in order to find micro RNA to be used as biomarkers of sepsis. Researches are performed to determine microRNA, small fragments of non-coding RNA, in order to distinguish between patients with sepsis and healthy patients, and if the plasma levels of microRNA correlate with the severity of the disease. Recent researches report that the regulation of gene expression through microRNA plays a very important role in the following cellular processes, for example: apoptosis, the differentiation process, and the cell cycle.
PMCID: PMC4391358  PMID: 25870671
sepsis; molecular mechanisms; microRNA
12.  A Role for microRNA-155 Modulation in the Anti-HIV-1 Effects of Toll-Like Receptor 3 Stimulation in Macrophages 
PLoS Pathogens  2012;8(9):e1002937.
HIV-1 infection of macrophages plays a key role in viral pathogenesis and progression to AIDS. Polyinosine-polycytidylic acid (poly(I∶C); a synthetic analog of dsRNA) and bacterial lipopolysaccharide (LPS), the ligands for Toll-like receptors (TLR) TLR3 and TLR4, respectively, are known to decrease HIV-1 infection in monocyte-derived macrophages (MDMs), but the mechanism(s) are incompletely understood. We found that poly(I∶C)- and LPS-stimulation of MDMs abrogated infection by CCR5-using, macrophage-tropic HIV-1, and by vesicular stomatitis virus glycoprotein-pseudotyped HIV-1 virions, while TLR2, TLR7 or TLR9 agonists only partially reduced infection to varying extent. Suppression of infection, or lack thereof, did not correlate with differential effects on CD4 or CCR5 expression, type I interferon induction, or production of pro-inflammatory cytokines or β-chemokines. Integrated pro-viruses were readily detected in unstimulated, TLR7- and TLR9-stimulated cells, but not in TLR3- or TLR4-stimulated MDMs, suggesting the alteration of post-entry, pre-integration event(s). Using microarray analysis and quantitative reverse transcription (RT)-PCR, we found increased microRNA (miR)-155 levels in MDMs upon TLR3/4- but not TLR7-stimulation, and a miR-155 specific inhibitor (but not a scrambled control) partially restored infectivity in poly(I∶C)-stimulated MDMs. Ectopic miR-155 expression remarkably diminished HIV-1 infection in primary MDMs and cell lines. Furthermore, poly(I∶C)-stimulation and ectopic miR-155 expression did not alter detection of early viral RT products, but both resulted in an accumulation of late RT products and in undetectable or extremely low levels of integrated pro-viruses and 2-LTR circles. Reduced mRNA and protein levels of several HIV-1 dependency factors involved in trafficking and/or nuclear import of pre-integration complexes (ADAM10, TNPO3, Nup153, LEDGF/p75) were found in poly(I∶C)-stimulated and miR-155-transfected MDMs, and a reporter assay suggested they are authentic miR-155 targets. Our findings provide evidence that miR-155 exerts an anti-HIV-1 effect by targeting several HIV-1 dependency factors involved in post-entry, pre-integration events, leading to severely diminished HIV-1 infection.
Author Summary
The infection of macrophages by HIV-1 is a crucial event in the pathogenesis of AIDS. Toll-like receptors (TLR) are a family of receptors present in macrophages – among other cells – that detect various components of microbes and trigger host defenses. It is known that stimulation of macrophages through TLR3 or TLR4 reduces their susceptibility to HIV-1 infection, but the mechanism is not well understood. Here we show for the first time in primary human macrophages that TLR3 and TLR4 but not other TLRs induce higher levels of microRNA-155 – a key regulator of inflammatory and immune responses – and that microRNA-155 has a remarkable anti-HIV-1 effect. MicroRNAs are small, non-coding RNAs that bind to target mRNAs based on sequence complementarity, and lead to reduced protein output. We also show that the anti-HIV-1 effects of microRNA-155 seem to be mediated through targeting the mRNAs of several cellular proteins needed by the virus for trafficking and/or nuclear import of the viral DNA, which is required for integration into the host DNA and successful infection. These studies provide evidence of novel microRNA-155 targets and may serve as the basis for an innovative approach to reduce cellular susceptibility to HIV-1 infection.
PMCID: PMC3447756  PMID: 23028330
13.  Evaluation of microRNA expression profiles and their associations with risk alleles in lymphoblastoid cell lines of familial ovarian cancer 
Carcinogenesis  2012;33(3):604-612.
Interindividual variations of microRNA expression are likely to influence the expression of microRNA target genes and, therefore, contribute to phenotypic differences in humans, including cancer susceptibility. Whether microRNA expression variation has any role in ovarian cancer development is still unknown. Here, we evaluated microRNA expression profiles in lymphoblastoid cell lines from 74 women with familial ovarian cancer and 47 unrelated controls matched on gender and race. We found that the cases and unrelated controls can be clustered using 95 differentially expressed microRNAs with 91% accuracy. To assess the potential implications of microRNAs in ovarian cancer, we investigated the associations between microRNA expression and seven ovarian cancer risk variants discovered from genome-wide association studies (GWAS), namely, rs3814113 on 9p22.2, rs2072590 on 2q31, rs2665390 on 3q25, rs10088218, rs1516982, rs10098821 on 8q24.21 and rs2363956 on 19p13. We observed 130 significant associations at a permutation level of 0.01. Compared with other risk variants, rs3814113 and rs2072590 had the greatest number of significant associations (68 and 37, respectively). Interestingly, 14 microRNAs that were associated with ovarian cancer risk alleles belong to five microRNA clusters. The most notable cluster is the tumorigenic miR-17-92 cluster with five microRNAs, all of which are significantly associated with rs3814113. Using pathway analysis, several key biological pathways were significantly overrepresented, such as cellular response to stress (P = 2.87 × 10−06), etc. Further characterization of significant associations between microRNAs and risk alleles could facilitate the understanding of the functions of these GWAS discovered risk alleles in the genetic etiology of ovarian cancer.
PMCID: PMC3291866  PMID: 22235027
14.  Preferential Binding to Elk-1 by SLE-Associated IL10 Risk Allele Upregulates IL10 Expression 
PLoS Genetics  2013;9(10):e1003870.
Immunoregulatory cytokine interleukin-10 (IL-10) is elevated in sera from patients with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) correlating with disease activity. The established association of IL10 with SLE and other autoimmune diseases led us to fine map causal variant(s) and to explore underlying mechanisms. We assessed 19 tag SNPs, covering the IL10 gene cluster including IL19, IL20 and IL24, for association with SLE in 15,533 case and control subjects from four ancestries. The previously reported IL10 variant, rs3024505 located at 1 kb downstream of IL10, exhibited the strongest association signal and was confirmed for association with SLE in European American (EA) (P = 2.7×10−8, OR = 1.30), but not in non-EA ancestries. SNP imputation conducted in EA dataset identified three additional SLE-associated SNPs tagged by rs3024505 (rs3122605, rs3024493 and rs3024495 located at 9.2 kb upstream, intron 3 and 4 of IL10, respectively), and SLE-risk alleles of these SNPs were dose-dependently associated with elevated levels of IL10 mRNA in PBMCs and circulating IL-10 protein in SLE patients and controls. Using nuclear extracts of peripheral blood cells from SLE patients for electrophoretic mobility shift assays, we identified specific binding of transcription factor Elk-1 to oligodeoxynucleotides containing the risk (G) allele of rs3122605, suggesting rs3122605 as the most likely causal variant regulating IL10 expression. Elk-1 is known to be activated by phosphorylation and nuclear localization to induce transcription. Of interest, phosphorylated Elk-1 (p-Elk-1) detected only in nuclear extracts of SLE PBMCs appeared to increase with disease activity. Co-expression levels of p-Elk-1 and IL-10 were elevated in SLE T, B cells and monocytes, associated with increased disease activity in SLE B cells, and were best downregulated by ERK inhibitor. Taken together, our data suggest that preferential binding of activated Elk-1 to the IL10 rs3122605-G allele upregulates IL10 expression and confers increased risk for SLE in European Americans.
Author Summary
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), a debilitating autoimmune disease characterized by the production of pathogenic autoantibodies, has a strong genetic basis. Variants of the IL10 gene, which encodes cytokine interleukin-10 (IL-10) with known function of promoting B cell hyperactivity and autoantibody production, are associated with SLE and other autoimmune diseases, and serum IL-10 levels are elevated in SLE patients correlating with increased disease activity. In this study, to discover SLE-predisposing causal variant(s), we assessed variants within the genomic region containing IL10 and its gene family member IL19, IL20 and IL24 for association with SLE in case and control subjects from diverse ancestries. We identified SLE-associated SNP rs3122605 located at 9.2 kb upstream of IL10 as the most likely causal variant in subjects of European ancestry. The SLE-risk allele of rs3122605 was dose-dependently associated with elevated IL10 expression at both mRNA and protein levels in peripheral blood samples from SLE patients and controls, which could be explained, at least in part, by its preferential binding to Elk-1, a transcription factor activated in B cells during active disease of SLE patients. Elk-1-mediated IL-10 overexpression could be downregulated by inhibiting activation of mitogen-activated protein kinases, suggesting a potential therapeutic target for SLE.
PMCID: PMC3794920  PMID: 24130510
15.  Differential microRNA Profiles and Their Functional Implications in Different Immunogenetic Subsets of Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia 
Molecular Medicine  2013;19(1):115-123.
Critical processes of B-cell physiology, including immune signaling through the B-cell receptor (BcR) and/or Toll-like receptors (TLRs), are targeted by microRNAs. With this in mind and also given the important role of BcR and TLR signaling and microRNAs in chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL), we investigated whether microRNAs could be implicated in shaping the behavior of CLL clones with distinct BcR and TLR molecular and functional profiles. To this end, we examined 79 CLL cases for the expression of 33 microRNAs, selected on the following criteria: (a) deregulated in CLL versus normal B-cells; (b) differentially expressed in CLL subgroups with distinct clinicobiological features; and, (c) if meeting (a) + (b), having predicted targets in the immune signaling pathways. Significant upregulation of miR-150, miR-29c, miR-143 and miR-223 and downregulation of miR-15a was found in mutated versus unmutated CLL, with miR-15a showing the highest fold difference. Comparison of two major subsets with distinct stereotyped BcRs and signaling signatures, namely subset 1 [IGHV1/5/7-IGKV1(D)-39, unmutated, bad prognosis] versus subset 4 [IGHV4-34/IGKV2-30, mutated, good prognosis] revealed differences in the expression of miR-150, miR-29b, miR-29c and miR-101, all down-regulated in subset 1. We were also able to link these distinct microRNA profiles with cellular phenotypes, importantly showing that, in subset 1, miR-101 downregulation is associated with overexpression of the enhancer of zeste homolog 2 (EZH2) protein, which has been associated with clinical aggressiveness in other B-cell lymphomas. In conclusion, specific miRNAs differentially expressed among CLL subgroups with distinct BcR and/or TLR signaling may modulate the biological and clinical behavior of the CLL clones.
PMCID: PMC3667214  PMID: 23615967
16.  Increase of microRNA-210, Decrease of Raptor Gene Expression and Alteration of Mammalian Target of Rapamycin Regulated Proteins following Mithramycin Treatment of Human Erythroid Cells 
PLoS ONE  2015;10(4):e0121567.
Expression and regulation of microRNAs is an emerging issue in erythroid differentiation and globin gene expression in hemoglobin disorders. In the first part of this study microarray analysis was performed both in mithramycin-induced K562 cells and erythroid precursors from healthy subjects or β-thalassemia patients producing low or high levels of fetal hemoglobin. We demonstrated that: (a) microRNA-210 expression is higher in erythroid precursors from β-thalassemia patients with high production of fetal hemoglobin; (b) microRNA-210 increases as a consequence of mithramycin treatment of K562 cells and human erythroid progenitors both from healthy and β-thalassemia subjects; (c) this increase is associated with erythroid induction and elevated expression of γ-globin genes; (d) an anti-microRNA against microRNA-210 interferes with the mithramycin-induced changes of gene expression. In the second part of the study we have obtained convergent evidences suggesting raptor mRNA as a putative target of microRNA-210. Indeed, microRNA-210 binding sites of its 3’-UTR region were involved in expression and are targets of microRNA-210-mediated modulation in a luciferase reporter assays. Furthermore, (i) raptor mRNA and protein are down-regulated upon mithramycin-induction both in K562 cells and erythroid progenitors from healthy and β-thalassemia subjects. In addition, (ii) administration of anti-microRNA-210 to K562 cells decreased endogenous microRNA-210 and increased raptor mRNA and protein expression. Finally, (iii) treatment of K562 cells with premicroRNA-210 led to a decrease of raptor mRNA and protein. In conclusion, microRNA-210 and raptor are involved in mithramycin-mediated erythroid differentiation of K562 cells and participate to the fine-tuning and control of γ-globin gene expression in erythroid precursor cells.
PMCID: PMC4388523  PMID: 25849663
17.  Differentiating Human Multipotent Mesenchymal Stromal Cells Regulate microRNAs: Prediction of microRNA Regulation by PDGF During Osteogenesis 
Experimental hematology  2008;36(10):1354-1369.
Human multipotent mesenchymal stromal cells (MSC) have the potential to differentiate into multiple cell types, although little is known about factors that control their fate. Differentiation-specific microRNAs may play a key role in stem cell self renewal and differentiation. We propose that specific intracellular signalling pathways modulate gene expression during differentiation by regulating microRNA expression.
Illumina mRNA and NCode microRNA expression analyses were performed on MSC and their differentiated progeny. A combination of bioinformatic prediction and pathway inhibition was used to identify microRNAs associated with PDGF signalling.
The pattern of microRNA expression in MSC is distinct from that in pluripotent stem cells such as human embryonic stem cells. Specific populations of microRNAs are regulated in MSC during differentiation targeted towards specific cell types. Complementary mRNA expression analysis increases the pool of markers characteristic of MSC or differentiated progeny. To identify microRNA expression patterns affected by signalling pathways, we examined the PDGF pathway found to be regulated during osteogenesis by microarray studies. A set of microRNAs bioinformatically predicted to respond to PDGF signalling was experimentally confirmed by direct PDGF inhibition.
Our results demonstrate that a subset of microRNAs regulated during osteogenic differentiation of MSCs is responsive to perturbation of the PDGF pathway. This approach not only identifies characteristic classes of differentiation-specific mRNAs and microRNAs, but begins to link regulated molecules with specific cellular pathways.
PMCID: PMC2782644  PMID: 18657893
18.  Toll like receptor signaling in “inflammaging”: microRNA as new players 
The age-related changes of immune system functions are complex phenomena incompletely understood. The acquired immune system shows a functional decline in ability to respond to new pathogens during aging, whereas serum levels of inflammatory cytokines are increased with age. The source of this age-related systemic chronic inflammation, named inflammaging, was mainly attributed to the progressive activation of immune cells over time. However, recent studies have shown that the process of cellular senescence can be an important additional contributor to chronic inflammation, since senescent cells acquire a phenotype named “senescence-associated secretory phenotype” (SASP), characterized by the enhanced secretion of many inflammation modulators. Pathogen-associated molecular pattern receptors, in particular Toll-like receptors (TLRs), are key molecules in the response of innate immunity cells to pathological stimuli. An intriguing and innovative hypothesis is that the dysfunction of TLRs signaling and the acquisition of SASP can be two interconnected phenomena. The TLR family, including receptors and co-effector molecules, do not show a consistent age-dependent change across model systems. However, there is evidence for impaired downstream signaling events, including inhibition of positive and activation of negative modulators of TLR signaling. MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are a newly discovered class of gene regulators acting as post-transcriptional repressors of a number of genes. The miRNA property to finely-tune gene expression makes them right for immune system regulation, which requires precise control for proper activity. We reviewed evidences suggesting that miRNAs can modulate TLR signaling mainly by three different mechanisms: 1) miRNAs can directly target components of the TLR signaling system, 2) miRNA expression can be directly regulated by TLRs pathway activation and 3) miRNAs can directly activate the RNA-sensing TLRs, like TLR-8, in humans. We also reviewed how TLR signaling is modulated by miRNAs during aging, and how an impaired miRNAs/TLR signaling interaction in immune system cells and related cells, i.e. endothelial cells and adipocytes, can contribute to inflammaging observed in normal aging. Interestingly, this impairment appears accelerated in presence of the majors age-related diseases, such as cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, neurodegenerative diseases and cancers.
PMCID: PMC3618188  PMID: 23506673
MicroRNA; TLR; Aging; Cellular senescence; Inflammaging; SASP; Endothelial cells; Innate immunity cells
19.  NAViGaTing the Micronome – Using Multiple MicroRNA Prediction Databases to Identify Signalling Pathway-Associated MicroRNAs 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(2):e17429.
MicroRNAs are a class of small RNAs known to regulate gene expression at the transcript level, the protein level, or both. Since microRNA binding is sequence-based but possibly structure-specific, work in this area has resulted in multiple databases storing predicted microRNA:target relationships computed using diverse algorithms. We integrate prediction databases, compare predictions to in vitro data, and use cross-database predictions to model the microRNA:transcript interactome – referred to as the micronome – to study microRNA involvement in well-known signalling pathways as well as associations with disease. We make this data freely available with a flexible user interface as our microRNA Data Integration Portal — mirDIP (
mirDIP integrates prediction databases to elucidate accurate microRNA:target relationships. Using NAViGaTOR to produce interaction networks implicating microRNAs in literature-based, KEGG-based and Reactome-based pathways, we find these signalling pathway networks have significantly more microRNA involvement compared to chance (p<0.05), suggesting microRNAs co-target many genes in a given pathway. Further examination of the micronome shows two distinct classes of microRNAs; universe microRNAs, which are involved in many signalling pathways; and intra-pathway microRNAs, which target multiple genes within one signalling pathway. We find universe microRNAs to have more targets (p<0.0001), to be more studied (p<0.0002), and to have higher degree in the KEGG cancer pathway (p<0.0001), compared to intra-pathway microRNAs.
Our pathway-based analysis of mirDIP data suggests microRNAs are involved in intra-pathway signalling. We identify two distinct classes of microRNAs, suggesting a hierarchical organization of microRNAs co-targeting genes both within and between pathways, and implying differential involvement of universe and intra-pathway microRNAs at the disease level.
PMCID: PMC3045450  PMID: 21364759
20.  Genome-wide microRNA changes in human intracranial aneurysms 
BMC Neurology  2014;14:188.
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
21.  Identifying microRNA/mRNA dysregulations in ovarian cancer 
BMC Research Notes  2012;5:164.
MicroRNAs are a class of noncoding RNA molecules that co-regulate the expression of multiple genes via mRNA transcript degradation or translation inhibition. Since they often target entire pathways, they may be better drug targets than genes or proteins. MicroRNAs are known to be dysregulated in many tumours and associated with aggressive or poor prognosis phenotypes. Since they regulate mRNA in a tissue specific manner, their functional mRNA targets are poorly understood. In previous work, we developed a method to identify direct mRNA targets of microRNA using patient matched microRNA/mRNA expression data using an anti-correlation signature. This method, applied to clear cell Renal Cell Carcinoma (ccRCC), revealed many new regulatory pathways compromised in ccRCC. In the present paper, we apply this method to identify dysregulated microRNA/mRNA mechanisms in ovarian cancer using data from The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA).
TCGA Microarray data was normalized and samples whose class labels (tumour or normal) were ambiguous with respect to consensus ensemble K-Means clustering were removed. Significantly anti-correlated and correlated genes/microRNA differentially expressed between tumour and normal samples were identified. TargetScan was used to identify gene targets of microRNA.
We identified novel microRNA/mRNA mechanisms in ovarian cancer. For example, the expression level of RAD51AP1 was found to be strongly anti-correlated with the expression of hsa-miR-140-3p, which was significantly down-regulated in the tumour samples. The anti-correlation signature was present separately in the tumour and normal samples, suggesting a direct causal dysregulation of RAD51AP1 by hsa-miR-140-3p in the ovary. Other pairs of potentially biological relevance include: hsa-miR-145/E2F3, hsa-miR-139-5p/TOP2A, and hsa-miR-133a/GCLC. We also identified sets of positively correlated microRNA/mRNA pairs that are most likely result from indirect regulatory mechanisms.
Our findings identify novel microRNA/mRNA relationships that can be verified experimentally. We identify both generic microRNA/mRNA regulation mechanisms in the ovary as well as specific microRNA/mRNA controls which are turned on or off in ovarian tumours. Our results suggest that the disease process uses specific mechanisms which may be significant for their utility as early detection biomarkers or in the development of microRNA therapies in treating ovarian cancers. The positively correlated microRNA/mRNA pairs suggest the existence of novel regulatory mechanisms that proceed via intermediate states (indirect regulation) in ovarian tumorigenesis.
PMCID: PMC3342161  PMID: 22452920
22.  Distinct microRNA alterations characterize high and low grade bladder cancer 
Cancer research  2009;69(21):8472-8481.
Urothelial carcinoma of the bladder (UCC) is a common disease that arises by at least two different molecular pathways. The biology of UCC is incompletely understood, making the management of this disease difficult. Recent evidence implicates a regulatory role for microRNA in cancer. We hypothesized that altered microRNA expression contributes to UCC carcinogenesis. To test this hypothesis we examined the expression of 322 microRNAs and their processing machinery in 78 normal and malignant urothelial samples using realtime rtPCR. Genes targeted by differentially expressed microRNA were investigated using realtime quantification and microRNA knock-down. We also examined the role of aberrant DNA hypermethylation in microRNA down-regulation. We found that altered microRNA expression is common in UCC and occurs early in tumorogenesis. In normal urothelium from patients with UCC 11% of microRNA’s had altered expression when compared to disease-free controls. This was associated with upregulation of Dicer, Drosha and Exportin 5. In UCC, microRNA alterations occur in a tumor phenotype-specific manner and can predict disease progression. High-grade UCC were characterized by microRNA upregulation, including microRNA-21 that suppresses p53 function. In low-grade UCC there was down-regulation of many microRNA molecules. In particular, loss of microRNAs-99a/100 leads to upregulation of FGFR3 prior to its mutation. Promoter hypermethylation is partly responsible for microRNA down-regulation. In conclusion, distinct microRNA alterations characterize UCC and target genes in a pathway-specific manner. These data reveal new insights into the disease biology and have implications regarding tumor diagnosis, prognosis and therapy.
PMCID: PMC2871298  PMID: 19843843
23.  HCV-Induced miR-21 Contributes to Evasion of Host Immune System by Targeting MyD88 and IRAK1 
PLoS Pathogens  2013;9(4):e1003248.
Upon recognition of viral components by pattern recognition receptors, such as the toll-like receptors (TLRs) and retinoic acid-inducible gene I (RIG-I)-like helicases, cells are activated to produce type I interferon (IFN) and proinflammatory cytokines. These pathways are tightly regulated by the host to prevent an inappropriate cellular response, but viruses can modulate these pathways to proliferate and spread. In this study, we revealed a novel mechanism in which hepatitis C virus (HCV) evades the immune surveillance system to proliferate by activating microRNA-21 (miR-21). We demonstrated that HCV infection upregulates miR-21, which in turn suppresses HCV-triggered type I IFN production, thus promoting HCV replication. Furthermore, we demonstrated that miR-21 targets two important factors in the TLR signaling pathway, myeloid differentiation factor 88 (MyD88) and interleukin-1 receptor-associated kinase 1 (IRAK1), which are involved in HCV-induced type I IFN production. HCV-mediated activation of miR-21 expression requires viral proteins and several signaling components. Moreover, we identified a transcription factor, activating protein-1 (AP-1), which is partly responsible for miR-21 induction in response to HCV infection through PKCε/JNK/c-Jun and PKCα/ERK/c-Fos cascades. Taken together, our results indicate that miR-21 is upregulated during HCV infection and negatively regulates IFN-α signaling through MyD88 and IRAK1 and may be a potential therapeutic target for antiviral intervention.
Author Summary
Hepatitis C virus (HCV), a major cause of chronic hepatitis, end-stage cirrhosis, and hepatocellular carcinoma, has chronically infected 200 million people worldwide and 3–4 million more each year. When triggered by viral infection, host cells produce type I interferon (IFN) and proinflammatory cytokines to antagonize the virus. Despite extensive research, the mechanism underlying HCV immune system evasion remains elusive. Our results provided the first direct evidence that microRNA-21 (miR-21) feedback inhibits type I IFN signaling when cells are challenged with HCV, thus promoting the infection. MicroRNA is a kind of endogenous non-coding small RNA that regulates a wide range of biological processes and participate in innate and adaptive immune responses through complementarily pairing with target mRNA, which can regulate its expression or translation. Currently, miRNAs have intrigued many scientists as potent targets or therapeutic agents for diseases. In our study, the targets of miR-21, myeloid differentiation factor 88 (MyD88) and interleukin-1 receptor-associated kinase 1 (IRAK1), which are important for HCV-induced type I IFN production, have also been found. Moreover, we identified a transcription factor, AP-1, which is partly responsible for miR-21 induction in response to HCV infection. Taken together, our research has provided new insights into understanding the effects of miRNA on host-virus interactions, and revealed a potential therapeutic target for antiviral intervention.
PMCID: PMC3635988  PMID: 23633945
24.  Ago2 Immunoprecipitation Identifies Predicted MicroRNAs in Human Embryonic Stem Cells and Neural Precursors 
PLoS ONE  2009;4(9):e7192.
MicroRNAs are required for maintenance of pluripotency as well as differentiation, but since more microRNAs have been computationally predicted in genome than have been found, there are likely to be undiscovered microRNAs expressed early in stem cell differentiation.
Methodology/Principal Findings
SOLiD ultra-deep sequencing identified >107 unique small RNAs from human embryonic stem cells (hESC) and neural-restricted precursors that were fit to a model of microRNA biogenesis to computationally predict 818 new microRNA genes. These predicted genomic loci are associated with chromatin patterns of modified histones that are predictive of regulated gene expression. 146 of the predicted microRNAs were enriched in Ago2-containing complexes along with 609 known microRNAs, demonstrating association with a functional RISC complex. This Ago2 IP-selected subset was consistently expressed in four independent hESC lines and exhibited complex patterns of regulation over development similar to previously-known microRNAs, including pluripotency-specific expression in both hESC and iPS cells. More than 30% of the Ago2 IP-enriched predicted microRNAs are new members of existing families since they share seed sequences with known microRNAs.
Extending the classic definition of microRNAs, this large number of new microRNA genes, the majority of which are less conserved than their canonical counterparts, likely represent evolutionarily recent regulators of early differentiation. The enrichment in Ago2 containing complexes, the presence of chromatin marks indicative of regulated gene expression, and differential expression over development all support the identification of 146 new microRNAs active during early hESC differentiation.
PMCID: PMC2745660  PMID: 19784364
25.  mRNA turnover rate limits siRNA and microRNA efficacy 
Based on a simple model of the mRNA life cycle, we predict that mRNAs with high turnover rates in the cell are more difficult to perturb with RNAi.We test this hypothesis using a luciferase reporter system and obtain additional evidence from a variety of large-scale data sets, including microRNA overexpression experiments and RT–qPCR-based efficacy measurements for thousands of siRNAs.Our results suggest that mRNA half-lives will influence how mRNAs are differentially perturbed whenever small RNA levels change in the cell, not only after transfection but also during differentiation, pathogenesis and normal cell physiology.
What determines how strongly an mRNA responds to a microRNA or an siRNA? We know that properties of the sequence match between the small RNA and the mRNA are crucial. However, large-scale validations of siRNA efficacies have shown that certain transcripts remain recalcitrant to perturbation even after repeated redesign of the siRNA (Krueger et al, 2007). Weak response to RNAi may thus be an inherent property of the mRNA, but the underlying factors have proven difficult to uncover.
siRNAs induce degradation by sequence-specific cleavage of their target mRNAs (Elbashir et al, 2001). MicroRNAs, too, induce mRNA degradation, and ∼80% of their effect on protein levels can be explained by changes in transcript abundance (Hendrickson et al, 2009; Guo et al, 2010). Given that multiple factors act simultaneously to degrade individual mRNAs, we here consider whether variable responses to micro/siRNA regulation may, in part, be explained simply by the basic dynamics of mRNA turnover. If a transcript is already under strong destabilizing regulation, it is theoretically possible that the relative change in abundance after the addition of a novel degrading factor would be less pronounced compared with a stable transcript (Figure 1). mRNA turnover is achieved by a multitude of factors, and the influence of such factors on targetability can be explored. However, their combined action, including yet unknown factors, is summarized into a single property: the mRNA decay rate.
First, we explored the theoretical relationship between the pre-existing turnover rate of an mRNA, and its expected susceptibility to perturbation by a small RNA. We assumed a basic model of the mRNA life cycle, in which the rate of transcription is constant and the rate of degradation is described by first-order kinetics. Under this model, the relative change in steady-state expression level will become smaller as the pre-existing decay rate grows larger, independent of the transcription rate. This relationship persists also if we assume various degrees of synergy and antagonism between the pre-existing factors and the external factor, with increasing synergism leading to transcripts being more equally targetable, regardless of their pre-existing decay rate.
We next generated a series of four luciferase reporter constructs with destabilizing AU-rich elements (AREs) of various strengths incorporated into their 3′ UTRs. To evaluate how the different constructs would respond to perturbation, we performed co-transfections with an siRNA targeted at the coding region of the luciferase gene. This reduced the signal of the non-destabilized construct to 26% compared with a control siRNA. In contrast, the most destabilized construct showed 42% remaining reporter activity, and we could observe a dose–response relationship across the series.
The reporter experiment encouraged an investigation of this effect on real-world mRNAs. We analyzed a set of 2622 siRNAs, for which individual efficacies were determined using RT–qPCR 48 h post-transfection in HeLa cells ( Of these, 1778 could be associated with an experimentally determined decay rate (Figure 4A). Although the overall correlation between the two variables was modest (Spearman's rank correlation rs=0.22, P<1e−20), we found that siRNAs directed at high-turnover (t1/2<200 min) and medium-turnover (2001000 min) transcripts (P<8e−11 and 4e−9, respectively, two-tailed KS-test, Figure 4B). While 41.6% (498/1196) of the siRNAs directed at low-turnover transcripts reached 10% remaining expression or better, only 16.7% (31/186) of the siRNAs that targeted high-turnover mRNAs reached this high degree of silencing (Figure 4B). Reduced targetability (25.2%, 100/396) was also seen for transcripts with medium-turnover rate.
Our results based on siRNA data suggested that turnover rates could also influence microRNA targeting. By assembling genome-wide mRNA expression data from 20 published microRNA transfections in HeLa cells, we found that predicted target mRNAs with short and medium half-life were significantly less repressed after transfection than their long-lived counterparts (P<8e−5 and P<0.03, respectively, two-tailed KS-test). Specifically, 10.2% (293/2874) of long-lived targets versus 4.4% (41/942) of short-lived targets were strongly (z-score <−3) repressed. siRNAs are known to cause off-target effects that are mediated, in part, by microRNA-like seed complementarity (Jackson et al, 2006). We analyzed changes in transcript levels after transfection of seven different siRNAs, each with a unique seed region (Jackson et al, 2006). Putative ‘off-targets' were identified by mapping of non-conserved seed matches in 3′ UTRs. We found that low-turnover mRNAs (t1/2 >1000 min) were more affected by seed-mediated off-target silencing than high-turnover mRNAs (t1/2 <200 min), with twice as many long-lived seed-containing transcripts (3.8 versus 1.9%) being strongly (z-score <−3) repressed.
In summary, mRNA turnover rates have an important influence on the changes exerted by small RNAs on mRNA levels. It can be assumed that mRNA half-lives will influence how mRNAs are differentially perturbed whenever small RNA levels change in the cell, not only after transfection but also during differentiation, pathogenesis and normal cell physiology.
The microRNA pathway participates in basic cellular processes and its discovery has enabled the development of si/shRNAs as powerful investigational tools and potential therapeutics. Based on a simple kinetic model of the mRNA life cycle, we hypothesized that mRNAs with high turnover rates may be more resistant to RNAi-mediated silencing. The results of a simple reporter experiment strongly supported this hypothesis. We followed this with a genome-wide scale analysis of a rich corpus of experiments, including RT–qPCR validation data for thousands of siRNAs, siRNA/microRNA overexpression data and mRNA stability data. We find that short-lived transcripts are less affected by microRNA overexpression, suggesting that microRNA target prediction would be improved if mRNA turnover rates were considered. Similarly, short-lived transcripts are more difficult to silence using siRNAs, and our results may explain why certain transcripts are inherently recalcitrant to perturbation by small RNAs.
PMCID: PMC3010119  PMID: 21081925
microRNA; mRNA decay; RNAi; siRNA

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