Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a fatal neurodegenerative disease characterized by selective motor neuron degeneration in motor cortex, brainstem and spinal cord. microRNAs (miRNAs) are small non-coding RNAs that bind complementary target sequences and modulate gene expression; they are key molecules for establishing a neuronal phenotype, and in neurodegeneration. Here we investigated neural miR-9, miR-124a, miR-125b, miR-219, miR-134, and cell cycle-related miR-19a and -19b, in G93A-SOD1 mouse brain in pre-symptomatic and late stage disease.
Expression of miR-9, miR-124a, miR-19a and -19b was significantly increased in G93A-SOD1 whole brain at late stage disease compared to B6.SJL and Wt-SOD1 control brains. These miRNAs were then analyzed in manually dissected SVZ, hippocampus, primary motor cortex and brainstem motor nuclei in 18-week-old ALS mice compared to same age controls. In SVZ and hippocampus miR-124a was up-regulated, miR-219 was down-regulated, and numbers of neural stem progenitor cells (NSPCs) were significantly increased. In G93A-SOD1 brainstem motor nuclei and primary motor cortex, miR-9 and miR-124a were significantly up-regulated, miR-125b expression was also increased. miR-19a and -19b were up-regulated in primary motor cortex and hippocampus, respectively. Expression analysis of predicted miRNA targets identified miRNA/target gene pairs differentially expressed in G93A-SOD1 brain regions compared to controls.
Hierarchical clustering analysis, identifying two clusters of miRNA/target genes, one characterizing brainstem motor nuclei and primary motor cortex, the other hippocampus and SVZ, suggests that altered expression of neural and cell cycle-related miRNAs in these brain regions might contribute to ALS pathogenesis in G93A-SOD1 mice. Re-establishing their expression to normal levels could be a new therapeutic approach to ALS.
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