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.
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.