While breast milk has unique health advantages for infants, the mechanisms by which it regulates the physiology of newborns are incompletely understood. miRNAs have been described as functioning transcellularly, and have been previously isolated in cell-free and exosomal form from bodily liquids (serum, saliva, urine) and tissues, including mammary tissue. We hypothesized that breast milk in general, and milk fat globules in particular, contain significant numbers of known and limited novel miRNA species detectable with massively parallel sequencing. Extracted RNA from lactating mothers before and following short-term treatment with recombinant human growth hormone (rhGH) was smRNA-enriched. smRNA-Seq was performed to generate 124,110,646 36-nt reads. Of these, 31,102,927 (25%) exactly matched known human miRNAs; with relaxing of stringency, 74,716,151 (60%) matched known miRNAs including 308 of the 1018 (29%) mature miRNAs (miRBase 16.0). These miRNAs are predicted to target 9074 genes; the 10 most abundant of these predicted to target 2691 genes with enrichment for transcriptional regulation of metabolic and immune responses. We identified 21 putative novel miRNAs, of which 12 were confirmed in a large validation set that included cohorts of lactating women consuming enriched diets. Of particular interest, we observed that expression of several novel miRNAs were altered by the perturbed maternal diet, notably following a high-fat intake (p<0.05). Our findings suggest that known and novel miRNAs are enriched in breast milk fat globules, and expression of several novel miRNA species is regulated by maternal diet. Based on robust pathway mapping, our data supports the notion that these maternally secreted miRNAs (stable in the milk fat globules) play a regulatory role in the infant and account in part for the health benefits of breast milk. We further speculate that regulation of these miRNA by a high fat maternal diet enables modulation of fetal metabolism to accommodate significant dietary challenges.
Playing a central role in the maintenance of hemostasis as well as in thrombotic disorders, platelets contain a relatively diverse messenger RNA (mRNA) transcriptome as well as functional mRNA-regulatory microRNAs, suggesting that platelet mRNAs may be regulated by microRNAs. Here, we elucidated the complete repertoire and features of human platelet microRNAs by high-throughput sequencing. More than 492 different mature microRNAs were detected in human platelets, whereas the list of known human microRNAs was expanded further by the discovery of 40 novel microRNA sequences. As in nucleated cells, platelet microRNAs bear signs of post-transcriptional modifications, mainly terminal adenylation and uridylation. In vitro enzymatic assays demonstrated the ability of human platelets to uridylate microRNAs, which correlated with the presence of the uridyltransferase enzyme TUT4. We also detected numerous microRNA isoforms (isomiRs) resulting from imprecise Drosha and/or Dicer processing, in some cases more frequently than the reference microRNA sequence, including 5′ shifted isomiRs with redirected mRNA targeting abilities. This study unveils the existence of a relatively diverse and complex microRNA repertoire in human platelets, and represents a mandatory step towards elucidating the intraplatelet and extraplatelet role, function and importance of platelet microRNAs.
Avian influenza virus (AIV) outbreaks are worldwide threats to both poultry and humans. Our previous study suggested microRNAs (miRNAs) play significant roles in the regulation of host response to AIV infection in layer chickens. The objective of this study was to test the hypothesis if genetic background play essential role in the miRNA regulation of AIV infection in chickens and if miRNAs that were differentially expressed in layer with AIV infection would be modulated the same way in broiler chickens. Furthermore, by integrating with parallel mRNA expression profiling, potential molecular mechanisms of host response to AIV infection can be further exploited.
Total RNA isolated from the lungs of non-infected and low pathogenic H5N3 infected broilers at four days post-infection were used for both miRNA deep sequencing and mRNA microarray analyses. A total of 2.6 M and 3.3 M filtered high quality reads were obtained from infected and non-infected chickens by Solexa GA-I Sequencer, respectively. A total of 271 miRNAs in miRBase 16.0 were identified and one potential novel miRNA was discovered. There were 121 miRNAs differentially expressed at the 5% false discovery rate by Fisher’s exact test. More miRNAs were highly expressed in infected lungs (108) than in non-infected lungs (13), which was opposite to the findings in layer chickens. This result suggested that a different regulatory mechanism of host response to AIV infection mediated by miRNAs might exist in broiler chickens. Analysis using the chicken 44 K Agilent microarray indicated that 508 mRNAs (347 down-regulated) were differentially expressed following AIV infection.
A comprehensive analysis combining both miRNA and targeted mRNA gene expression suggests that gga-miR-34a, 122–1, 122–2, 146a, 155, 206, 1719, 1594, 1599 and 451, and MX1, IL-8, IRF-7, TNFRS19 are strong candidate miRNAs or genes involved in regulating the host response to AIV infection in the lungs of broiler chickens. Further miRNA or gene specific knock-down assay is warranted to elucidate underlying mechanism of AIV infection regulation in the chicken.
Chicken; miRNA; AIV; Deep sequencing; Microarray
The ribonuclease Dicer plays a central role in the microRNA pathway by catalyzing the formation of 19–24-nucleotide (nt) long microRNAs. Subsequently incorporated into Argonaute 2 (Ago2) effector complexes, microRNAs are known to regulate messenger RNA (mRNA) translation. Whether shorter RNA species derived from microRNAs exist and play a role in mRNA regulation remains unknown. Here, we report the serendipitous discovery of a 12-nt long RNA species corresponding to the 5′ region of the microRNA let-7, and tentatively termed semi-microRNA, or smiRNA. Using a smiRNA derived from the precursor of miR-223 as a model, we show that 12-nt long smiRNA species are devoid of any direct mRNA regulatory activity, as assessed in a reporter gene activity assay in transfected cultured human cells. However, smiR-223 was found to modulate the ability of the microRNA from which it derives to mediate translational repression or cleavage of reporter mRNAs. Our findings suggest that the 12-nt RNA species, generated along the microRNA pathway, may participate to the control of gene expression by regulating the activity of the related full-length mature microRNA in vivo.
microRNA; non-coding RNA; Dicer; Argonaute 2; gene regulation; RNA silencing
The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA) Network recently comprehensively catalogued the molecular aberrations in 487 high-grade serous ovarian cancers, with much remaining to be elucidated regarding the microRNAs (miRNAs). Here, using TCGA ovarian data, we surveyed the miRNAs, in the context of their predicted gene targets.
Methods and Results
Integration of miRNA and gene patterns yielded evidence that proximal pairs of miRNAs are processed from polycistronic primary transcripts, and that intronic miRNAs and their host gene mRNAs derive from common transcripts. Patterns of miRNA expression revealed multiple tumor subtypes and a set of 34 miRNAs predictive of overall patient survival. In a global analysis, miRNA:mRNA pairs anti-correlated in expression across tumors showed a higher frequency of in silico predicted target sites in the mRNA 3′-untranslated region (with less frequency observed for coding sequence and 5′-untranslated regions). The miR-29 family and predicted target genes were among the most strongly anti-correlated miRNA:mRNA pairs; over-expression of miR-29a in vitro repressed several anti-correlated genes (including DNMT3A and DNMT3B) and substantially decreased ovarian cancer cell viability.
This study establishes miRNAs as having a widespread impact on gene expression programs in ovarian cancer, further strengthening our understanding of miRNA biology as it applies to human cancer. As with gene transcripts, miRNAs exhibit high diversity reflecting the genomic heterogeneity within a clinically homogeneous disease population. Putative miRNA:mRNA interactions, as identified using integrative analysis, can be validated. TCGA data are a valuable resource for the identification of novel tumor suppressive miRNAs in ovarian as well as other cancers.
Ovarian cancer is a complex and deadly disease that remains difficult to detect at an early curable stage. Furthermore, although some oncogenic (Kras, Pten/PI3K and Trp53) pathways that are frequently mutated, deleted or amplified in ovarian cancer are known, how these pathways initiate and drive specific morphological phenotypes and tumor outcomes remain unclear. We recently generated Pten fl/fl; KrasG12D;Amhr2-Cre mice to disrupt the Pten gene and express a stable mutant form of KrasG12D in ovarian surface epithelial (OSE) cells. Based on histopathologic criteria, the mutant mice developed low-grade ovarian serous papillary adenocarcinomas at an early age and with 100% penetrance. This highly reproducible phenotype provides the first mouse model in which to study this ovarian cancer subtype. OSE cells isolated from ovaries of mutant mice at 5 and 10 weeks of age exhibit temporal changes in the expression of specific Mullerian epithelial marker genes, grow in soft agar and develop ectopic invasive tumors in recipient mice, indicating that the cells are transformed. Gene profiling identified specific mRNAs and microRNAs differentially expressed in purified OSE cells derived from tumors of the mutant mice compared to WT OSE cells. Mapping of transcripts or genes between the mouse OSE mutant datasets, the Kras signature from human cancer cell lines and the human ovarian tumor array datasets, documented significant overlap, indicating that KRAS is a key driver of OSE transformation in this context. Two key hallmarks of the mutant OSE cells in these mice are the elevated expression of the tumor suppressorsTrp53 (p53) and its microRNA target, miR-34a-c. We propose that elevated TRP53 and miR-34a-c may exert negatively regulatory effects that reduce the proliferative potential of OSE cells leading to the low-grade serous adenocarcinoma phenotype.
Kras; Pten; Trp53; ovarian cancer; serous
Heparanase (HPSE) is a potent pro-tumorigenic, pro-angiogenic and pro-metastatic enzyme that is overexpressed in brain metastatic breast cancer (BMBC). However, little is known about the regulation of this potential therapeutic target in BMBC, which remains very poorly managed in the clinic. We hypothesized HPSE gene expression might be regulated by microRNA that might be exploited therapeutically. Using miRanda and RNAhybrid, we identified miR-1258 as a candidate microRNA that may directly target HPSE and suppress BMBC. In support of our hypothesis, we found that miR-1258 levels inversely correlated with heparanase expression, enzymatic activity, and cancer cell metastatic propensities, being lowest in highly aggressive BMBC cell variants compared to either non-tumorigenic or non-metastatic human mammary epithelial cells. These findings were validated by analyses of miR-1258 and heparanase content in paired clinical specimens of normal mammary gland versus invasive ductal carcinoma, and primary breast cancer versus BMBC. In regulatory experiments, miR-1258 inhibited the expression and activity of heparanase in BMBC cells, whereas modulating heparanase blocked the phenotypic effects of miR-1258. In functional experiments, stable expression of miR-1258 in BMBC cells inhibited heparanase, in vitro cell invasion, and experimental brain metastasis. Together, our findings illustrate how microRNA mechanisms are linked to brain metastatic breast cancer through heparanase control, and they offer a strong rationale to develop heparanase-based therapeutics for treatment of cancer patients with brain metastases, BMBC in particular.
MicroRNA; Heparanase; LNA-ISH; Brain metastasis; Breast cancer
MicroRNAs (miRNAs) play an important role in gene regulation for Embryonic Stem cells (ES cells), where they either down-regulate target mRNA genes by degradation or repress protein expression of these mRNA genes by inhibiting translation. Well known tables TargetScan and miRanda may predict quite long lists of potential miRNAs inhibitors for each mRNA gene, and one of our goals was to strongly narrow down the list of mRNA targets potentially repressed by a known large list of 400 miRNAs. Our paper focuses on algorithmic analysis of ES cells microarray data to reliably detect repressive interactions between miRNAs and mRNAs. We model, by chemical kinetics equations, the interaction architectures implementing the two basic silencing processes of miRNAs, namely “direct degradation” or “translation inhibition” of targeted mRNAs. For each pair (M,G) of potentially interacting miRMA gene M and mRNA gene G, we parameterize our associated kinetic equations by optimizing their fit with microarray data. When this fit is high enough, we validate the pair (M,G) as a highly probable repressive interaction. This approach leads to the computation of a highly selective and drastically reduced list of repressive pairs (M,G) involved in ES cells differentiation.
The zebra finch is an important model organism in several fields1,2 with unique relevance to human neuroscience3,4. Like other songbirds, the zebra finch communicates through learned vocalizations, an ability otherwise documented only in humans and a few other animals and lacking in the chicken5—the only bird with a sequenced genome until now6. Here we present a structural, functional and comparative analysis of the genome sequence of the zebra finch (Taeniopygia guttata), which is a songbird belonging to the large avian order Passeriformes7. We find that the overall structures of the genomes are similar in zebra finch and chicken, but they differ in many intrachromosomal rearrangements, lineage-specific gene family expansions, the number of long-terminal-repeat-based retrotransposons, and mechanisms of sex chromosome dosage compensation. We show that song behaviour engages gene regulatory networks in the zebra finch brain, altering the expression of long non-coding RNAs, microRNAs, transcription factors and their targets. We also show evidence for rapid molecular evolution in the songbird lineage of genes that are regulated during song experience. These results indicate an active involvement of the genome in neural processes underlying vocal communication and identify potential genetic substrates for the evolution and regulation of this behaviour.
In an important model for neuroscience, songbirds learn to discriminate songs they hear during tape-recorded playbacks, as demonstrated by song-specific habituation of both behavioral and neurogenomic responses in the auditory forebrain. We hypothesized that microRNAs (miRNAs or miRs) may participate in the changing pattern of gene expression induced by song exposure. To test this, we used massively parallel Illumina sequencing to analyse small RNAs from auditory forebrain of adult zebra finches exposed to tape-recorded birdsong or silence.
In the auditory forebrain, we identified 121 known miRNAs conserved in other vertebrates. We also identified 34 novel miRNAs that do not align to human or chicken genomes. Five conserved miRNAs showed significant and consistent changes in copy number after song exposure across three biological replications of the song-silence comparison, with two increasing (tgu-miR-25, tgu-miR-192) and three decreasing (tgu-miR-92, tgu-miR-124, tgu-miR-129-5p). We also detected a locus on the Z sex chromosome that produces three different novel miRNAs, with supporting evidence from Northern blot and TaqMan qPCR assays for differential expression in males and females and in response to song playbacks. One of these, tgu-miR-2954-3p, is predicted (by TargetScan) to regulate eight song-responsive mRNAs that all have functions in cellular proliferation and neuronal differentiation.
The experience of hearing another bird singing alters the profile of miRNAs in the auditory forebrain of zebra finches. The response involves both known conserved miRNAs and novel miRNAs described so far only in the zebra finch, including a novel sex-linked, song-responsive miRNA. These results indicate that miRNAs are likely to contribute to the unique behavioural biology of learned song communication in songbirds.
MicroRNAs (miRNAs) regulate complex patterns of gene expression, and the relevance of altered miRNA expression to ovarian cancer remains to be elucidated. By comprehensively profiling expression of miRNAs and mRNAs in serous ovarian tumors and cell lines and normal ovarian surface epithelium, we identified hundreds of potential miRNA-mRNA targeting associations underlying cancer. Functional overexpression of miR-31, the most underexpressed miRNA in serous ovarian cancer, repressed predicted miR-31 gene targets including cell cycle regulator E2F2. MIR31 and CDKN2A, which encodes p14ARF and p16INK4A, are located at 9p21.3, a genomic region commonly deleted in ovarian and other cancers. p14ARF promotes p53 activity, and E2F2 overexpression in p53 wild-type cells normally leads via p14ARF to an induction of p53-dependent apoptosis. In a number of serous cancer cell lines with a dysfunctional p53 pathway (i.e., OVCAR8, OVCA433, and SKOV3), miR-31 overexpression inhibited proliferation and induced apoptosis; however, in other lines (i.e., HEY and OVSAYO) with functional p53, miR-31 had no effect. Additionally, the osteosarcoma cell line U2OS and the prostate cancer cell line PC3 (p14ARF-deficient and p53-deficient, respectively) were also sensitive to miR-31. Furthermore, miR-31 overexpression induced a global gene expression pattern in OVCAR8 associated with better prognosis in tumors from patients with advanced stage serous ovarian cancer, potentially impacting many genes underlying disease progression. Our findings reveal that loss of miR-31 is associated with defects in the p53 pathway and functions in serous ovarian cancer and other cancers, suggesting that patients with cancers deficient in p53 activity might benefit from therapeutic delivery of miR-31.
microRNA; serous ovarian carcinoma; cancer therapy; miR31; TP53
Only thirteen microRNAs are conserved between D. melanogaster and the mouse; however, conditional loss of miRNA function through mutation of Dicer causes defects in proliferation of premeiotic germ cells in both species. This highlights the potentially important, but uncharacterized, role of miRNAs during early spermatogenesis. The goal of this study was to characterize on postnatal day 7, 10, and 14 the content and editing of murine testicular miRNAs, which predominantly arise from spermatogonia and spermatocytes, in contrast to prior descriptions of miRNAs in the adult mouse testis which largely reflects the content of spermatids. Previous studies have shown miRNAs to be abundant in the mouse testis by postnatal day 14; however, through Next Generation Sequencing of testes from a B6;129 background we found abundant earlier expression of miRNAs and describe shifts in the miRNA signature during this period. We detected robust expression of miRNAs encoded on the X chromosome in postnatal day 14 testes, consistent with prior studies showing their resistance to meiotic sex chromosome inactivation. Unexpectedly, we also found a similar positional enrichment for most miRNAs on chromosome 2 at postnatal day 14 and for those on chromosome 12 at postnatal day 7. We quantified in vivo developmental changes in three types of miRNA variation including 5′ heterogeneity, editing, and 3′ nucleotide addition. We identified eleven putative novel pubertal testis miRNAs whose developmental expression suggests a possible role in early male germ cell development. These studies provide a foundation for interpretation of miRNA changes associated with testicular pathology and identification of novel components of the miRNA editing machinery in the testis.
Hepatoblastoma is the most common malignant tumor of the liver of children worldwide. Histologically, hepatoblastomas show marked variation in the type and proportion of epithelial (fetal, embryonal, or small cell) and mesenchymal components with differing prognosis and response to therapy. The pure fetal–type hepatoblastoma, presenting as stage 1 and resectable, has the best prognosis, whereas the small cell histology has been associated with unfavorable outcome. Using gene expression profiling, we demonstrate that in addition to Wnt pathway deregulation, cell growth and survival pathways are also globally deregulated in hepatoblastomas. Furthermore, the different histologic subtypes are characterized by specific gene expression and pathway signatures that give insight into the degree of molecular heterogeneity that is present among these tumors. Although Wnt signaling pathway upregulation is common to all histologic types of hepatoblastoma, this pathway is even more significantly deregulated in aggressive hepatoblastomas. In addition, deregulation of MAPK signaling pathway and antiapoptotic signaling is preferentially upregulated in aggressive epithelial hepatoblastomas with a small cell component. The gene expression signatures reported here provide possible prognostic and diagnostic markers as well as therapeutic targets for this disease.
Gene expression profiling; Fetal; Small cell and embryonal hepatoblastoma; Liver tumors; Pediatric
Difficulties associated with implementing gene therapy are caused by the complexity of the underlying regulatory networks. The forms of interactions between the hundreds of genes, proteins, and metabolites in these networks are not known very accurately. An alternative approach is to limit consideration to genes on the network. Steady state measurements of these influence networks can be obtained from DNA microarray experiments. However, since they contain a large number of nodes, the computation of influence networks requires a prohibitively large set of microarray experiments. Furthermore, error estimates of the network make verifiable predictions impossible.
Here, we propose an alternative approach. Rather than attempting to derive an accurate model of the network, we ask what questions can be addressed using lower dimensional, highly simplified models. More importantly, is it possible to use such robust features in applications? We first identify a small group of genes that can be used to affect changes in other nodes of the network. The reduced effective empirical subnetwork (EES) can be computed using steady state measurements on a small number of genetically perturbed systems. We show that the EES can be used to make predictions on expression profiles of other mutants, and to compute how to implement pre-specified changes in the steady state of the underlying biological process. These assertions are verified in a synthetic influence network. We also use previously published experimental data to compute the EES associated with an oxygen deprivation network of E.coli, and use it to predict gene expression levels on a double mutant. The predictions are significantly different from the experimental results for less than of genes.
The constraints imposed by gene expression levels of mutants can be used to address a selected set of questions about a gene network.
MicroRNAs are short non-coding RNAs that regulate the stability and translation of mRNAs. Profiling experiments, using microarray or deep sequencing technology, have identified microRNAs that are preferentially expressed in certain tissues, specific stages of development, or disease states such as cancer. Deep sequencing utilizes massively parallel sequencing, generating millions of small RNA sequence reads from a given sample. Profiling of microRNAs by deep sequencing measures absolute abundance and allows for the discovery of novel microRNAs that have eluded previous cloning and standard sequencing efforts. Public databases provide in silico predictions of microRNA gene targets by various algorithms. To better determine which of these predictions represent true positives, microRNA expression data can be integrated with gene expression data to identify putative microRNA:mRNA functional pairs. Here we discuss tools and methodologies for the analysis of microRNA expression data from deep sequencing.
deep sequencing; expression profiling; microRNA
MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are small non-coding RNAs that mediate post-transcriptional gene silencing. Over 700 human miRNAs have currently been identified, many of which are mutated or de-regulated in diseases. Here we report the identification of novel miRNAs through deep sequencing the small RNAome (<30 nt) of over 100 tissues or cell lines derived from human female reproductive organs in both normal and disease states. These specimens include ovarian epithelium and ovarian cancer, endometrium and endometriomas, and uterine myometrium and uterine smooth muscle tumors. Sequence reads not aligning with known miRNAs were each mapped to the genome to extract flanking sequences. These extended sequence regions were folded in silico to identify RNA hairpins. Sequences demonstrating the ability to form a stem loop structure with low minimum free energy (<−25 kcal) and predicted Drosha and Dicer cut sites yielding a mature miRNA sequence matching the actual sequence were considered putative novel miRNAs. Additional confidence was achieved when putative novel hairpins assembled a collection of sequences highly similar to the putative mature miRNA but with heterogeneous 3′-ends. A confirmed novel miRNA fulfilled these criteria and had its “star” sequence in our collection. We found 7 distinct confirmed novel miRNAs, and 51 additional novel miRNAs that represented highly confident predictions but without detectable star sequences. Our novel miRNAs were detectable in multiple samples, but expressed at low levels and not specific to any one tissue or cell type. To date, this study represents the largest set of samples analyzed together to identify novel miRNAs.
MicroRNAs (miRNAs) play critical roles in a wide spectrum of biological processes and have been shown to be important effectors in the intricate host-pathogen interaction networks. Avian influenza virus (AIV) not only causes significant economic losses in poultry production, but also is of great concern to human health. The objective of this study was to identify miRNAs associated with AIV infections in chickens.
Total RNAs were isolated from lung and trachea of low pathogenic H5N3 infected and non-infected SPF chickens at 4 days post-infection. A total of 278,398 and 340,726 reads were obtained from lung and trachea, respectively. And 377 miRNAs were detected in lungs and 149 in tracheae from a total of 474 distinct chicken miRNAs available at the miRBase, respectively. Seventy-three and thirty-six miRNAs were differentially expressed between infected and non-infected chickens in lungs and tracheae, respectively. There were more miRNAs highly expressed in non-infected tissues than in infected tissues. Interestingly, some of these differentially expressed miRNAs, including miR-146, have been previously reported to be associated with immune-related signal pathways in mammals.
To our knowledge, this is the first study on miRNA gene expression in AIV infected chickens using a deep sequencing approach. During AIV infection, many host miRNAs were differentially regulated, supporting the hypothesis that certain miRNAs might be essential in the host-pathogen interactions. Elucidation of the mechanism of these miRNAs on the regulation of host-AIV interaction will lead to the development of new control strategies to prevent or treat AIV infections in poultry.
Nuage are amorphous ultrastructural granules in the cytoplasm of male germ cells as divergent as Drosophila, Xenopus, and Homo sapiens. Most nuage are cytoplasmic ribonucleoprotein structures implicated in diverse RNA metabolism including the regulation of PIWI-interacting RNA (piRNA) synthesis by the PIWI family (i.e., MILI, MIWI2, and MIWI). MILI is prominent in embryonic and early post-natal germ cells in nuage also called germinal granules that are often associated with mitochondria and called intermitochondrial cement. We find that GASZ (Germ cell protein with Ankyrin repeats, Sterile alpha motif, and leucine Zipper) co-localizes with MILI in intermitochondrial cement. Knockout of Gasz in mice results in a dramatic downregulation of MILI, and phenocopies the zygotene–pachytene spermatocyte block and male sterility defect observed in MILI null mice. In Gasz null testes, we observe increased hypomethylation and expression of retrotransposons similar to MILI null testes. We also find global shifts in the small RNAome, including down-regulation of repeat-associated, known, and novel piRNAs. These studies provide the first evidence for an essential structural role for GASZ in male fertility and epigenetic and post-transcriptional silencing of retrotransposons by stabilizing MILI in nuage.
Many aspects of RNA processing are essential for or prominent in the differentiation of germ cells. Some RNA metabolism in animal germ cells is associated with physical structures surrounding the cell nucleus called nuage. Nuage has a distinct granular appearance prior to the meiotic divisions with unclear functions. We have identified a protein called GASZ, which plays a structural role in this early nuage. In mice lacking GASZ, retrotransposons—endogenous viral-like particles—become released from their typical repressed state in the germline by the loss of small RNAs called piRNAs, resulting in DNA damage and delayed germ cell maturation. Protection of the germline from genetic intruders may require the association of piRNA-synthesizing enzymes and other components of this nuage structure through direct or indirect associations with GASZ. Mutations in GASZ and other nuage components may contribute to infertility in men who do not produce spermatozoa.
The human X chromosome has a unique biology that was shaped by its evolution as the sex chromosome shared by males and females. We have determined 99.3% of the euchromatic sequence of the X chromosome. Our analysis illustrates the autosomal origin of the mammalian sex chromosomes, the stepwise process that led to the progressive loss of recombination between X and Y, and the extent of subsequent degradation of the Y chromosome. LINE1 repeat elements cover one-third of the X chromosome, with a distribution that is consistent with their proposed role as way stations in the process of X-chromosome inactivation. We found 1,098 genes in the sequence, of which 99 encode proteins expressed in testis and in various tumour types. A disproportionately high number of mendelian diseases are documented for the X chromosome. Of this number, 168 have been explained by mutations in 113 X-linked genes, which in many cases were characterized with the aid of the DNA sequence.
MicroRNAs (miRNAs: a class of short non-coding RNAs) are emerging as important agents of post transcriptional gene regulation and integral components of gene networks. MiRNAs have been strongly linked to stem cells, which have a remarkable dual role in development. They can either continuously replenish themselves (self-renewal), or differentiate into cells that execute a limited number of specific actions (pluripotence).
In order to identify novel miRNAs from narrow windows of development we carried out an in silico search for micro-conserved elements (MCE) in adult tissue progenitor transcript sequences. A plethora of previously unknown miRNA candidates were revealed including 545 small RNAs that are enriched in embryonic stem (ES) cells over adult cells. Approximately 20% of these novel candidates are down-regulated in ES (Dicer−/−) ES cells that are impaired in miRNA maturation. The ES-enriched miRNA candidates exhibit distinct and opposite expression trends from mmu-mirs (an abundant class in adult tissues) during retinoic acid (RA)-induced ES cell differentiation. Significant perturbation of trends is found in both miRNAs and novel candidates in ES (GCNF−/−) cells, which display loss of repression of pluripotence genes upon differentiation.
Combining expression profile information with miRNA target prediction, we identified miRNA-mRNA pairs that correlate with ES cell pluripotence and differentiation. Perturbation of these pairs in the ES (GCNF−/−) mutant suggests a role for miRNAs in the core regulatory networks underlying ES cell self-renewal, pluripotence and differentiation.