Profiling miRNA expression in cells that directly contribute to human disease pathogenesis is likely to aid the discovery of novel drug targets and biomarkers. However, tissue heterogeneity and the limited amount of human diseased tissue available for research purposes present fundamental difficulties that often constrain the scope and potential of such studies. We established a flow cytometry-based method for isolating pure populations of pathogenic T cells from bronchial biopsy samples of asthma patients, and optimized a high-throughput nano-scale qRT-PCR method capable of accurately measuring 96 miRNAs in as little as 100 cells. Comparison of circulating and airway T cells from healthy and asthmatic subjects revealed asthma-associated and tissue-specific miRNA expression patterns. These results establish the feasibility and utility of investigating miRNA expression in small populations of cells involved in asthma pathogenesis, and set a precedent for application of our nano-scale approach in other human diseases. The microarray data from this study (Figure 7) has been submitted to the NCBI Gene Expression Omnibus (GEO; http://ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/geo) under accession no. GSE31030.
microRNA (miRNA); asthma; helper T cell; microfluidic; qPCR arrays
MicroRNA (miRNA)-deficient helper T cells exhibit abnormal IFN-γ production and decreased proliferation. However, the contributions of individual miRNAs to this phenotype remain poorly understood. We conducted a screen for miRNA function in primary T cells and identified individual miRNAs that rescue the defects associated with miRNA deficiency. Multiple members of the miR-17 and miR-92 families enhanced miRNA-deficient T cell proliferation whereas miR-29 largely corrected their aberrant interferon-γ (IFN-γ) expression. Repression of IFN-γ production by miR-29 involved direct targeting of both T-bet and Eomes, two transcription factors known to induce IFN-γ production. Although not usually expressed at functionally relevant amounts in helper T cells, Eomes was abundant in miRNA-deficient cells and was upregulated after miR-29 inhibition in wild-type cells. These results demonstrate that miR-29 regulates helper T cell differentiation by repressing multiple target genes, including at least two that are independently capable of inducing the T helper 1 (Th1) cell gene expression program.
MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are 22 nt non-coding RNAs that regulate expression of downstream targets by messenger RNA (mRNA) destabilization and translational inhibition. A large number of eukaryotic mRNAs are targeted by miRNAs, with many individual mRNAs being targeted by multiple miRNAs. Further, a single miRNA can target hundreds of mRNAs, making these small RNAs powerful regulators of cell fate decisions. Such regulation by miRNAs has been observed in the maintenance of the embryonic stem cell (ESC) cell cycle and during ESC differentiation. MiRNAs can also promote the dedifferentiation of somatic cells to induced pluripotent stem cells. During this process they target multiple downstream genes, which represent important nodes of key cellular processes. Here, we review these findings and discuss how miRNAs may be used as tools to discover novel pathways that are involved in cell fate transitions using dedifferentiation of somatic stem cells to induced pluripotent stem cells as a case study.
The vast majority of animals mate more or less promiscuously. A few mammals, including humans, utilize more restrained mating strategies that entail a longer term affiliation with a single mating partner. Such pair bonding mating strategies have been resistant to genetic analysis because of a lack of suitable model organisms. Prairie voles are small mouse-like rodents that form enduring pair bonds in the wild as well as in the laboratory, and consequently they have been used widely to study social bonding behavior. The lack of targeted genetic approaches in this species however has restricted the study of the molecular and neural circuit basis of pair bonds. As a first step in rendering the prairie vole amenable to reverse genetics, we have generated induced pluripotent stem cell (IPSC) lines from prairie vole fibroblasts using retroviral transduction of reprogramming factors. These IPSC lines display the cellular and molecular hallmarks of IPSC cells from other organisms, including mice and humans. Moreover, the prairie vole IPSC lines have pluripotent differentiation potential since they can give rise to all three germ layers in tissue culture and in vivo. These IPSC lines can now be used to develop conditions that facilitate homologous recombination and eventually the generation of prairie voles bearing targeted genetic modifications to study the molecular and neural basis of pair bond formation.
Recent months have seen rapid advances in the field of transdifferentiation, specifically in the conversion of fibroblasts to neurons. Most surprising is the observation that the ability to drive these transitions is not limited to transcription factors, but that they can be promoted by microRNAs as well. Indeed, in one case, microRNAs alone induced the transdifferentiation of fibroblasts to neuron-like cells, albeit at a low efficiency. Here, we review this rapidly advancing field, discuss possible mechanisms underlying microRNA-induced transdifferentiation and the potential for microRNAs to drive such transitions to any cell type of interest in vitro and in vivo.
Recent prostate specific antigen (PSA) based screening trials indicate an urgent need for novel and non-invasive biomarker identification strategies to improve the prediction of prostate cancer behavior. Non-coding microRNAs (miRNAs) in the serum and plasma have been shown to have potential as non-invasive markers for physiological and pathological conditions. To identify serum miRNAs that diagnose and correlate with prognosis of prostate cancer, we developed a multiplex quantitative reverse transcription PCR (qRT-PCR) method involving purification of multiplex PCR products followed by uniplex analysis on a microfluidics chip to evaluate 384 human miRNAs. Using Dgcr8 and Dicer knockout (small RNA - deficient) mouse ES cells (mESC) as the benchmark, we confirmed the validity of our technique, while uncovering a significant lack of accuracy in previously published methods. Profiling 48 sera from healthy men and untreated prostate cancer patients with differing CAPRA (Cancer of the Prostate Risk Assessment) scores, we identified miRNA signatures that allow to diagnose cancer patients and correlate with prognosis. These serum signatures include oncogenic and tumor suppressive miRNAs suggesting functional roles in prostate cancer progression.
microRNA; multiplex qRT-PCR; serum; prostate; cancer
The PML-RARα oncogene is the central effector of acute promyelocytic leukemia (APL). PML-RARα physically interacts with epigenetic-modifying enzymes including DNA methyltransferases (Dnmt) to suppress critical downstream targets. Here, we show that increased expression of Dnmt3a1 cooperates with PML-RARα in vivo to promote early lethality secondary to myeloid expansion and dysfunction in primary mice. Bone marrow cells from these mice cause leukemogenesis with a shortened latency and a higher penetrance on transplantation into irradiated recipients. Furthermore, leukemic cells overexpressing PML-RARα and Dnmt3a1 display increased methylation at a target promoter compared with PML-RARα or Dnmt3a1 controls. Our findings show a cooperation between the PML-RARα oncogene and the Dnmt3a1 enzyme in vivo and that Dnmt levels can be rate limiting in APL progression.
MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are small noncoding RNAs that have recently emerged as critical regulators of gene expression within the immune system. In this study we used mice with conditional deletion of Dicer and Dgcr8 to dissect the roles of miRNAs in NK cell activation, survival, and function during viral infection. We developed a novel system for deletion of either Dicer or Dgcr8 in peripheral NK cells via drug-induced Cre activity. We found that Dicer- and Dgcr8- deficient NK cells were significantly impaired in survival and turnover, and had impaired function of the ITAM-containing activating NK cell receptors. We further demonstrated that both Dicer- and Dgcr8-dependent pathways were indispensable for the expansion of Ly49H+ NK cells during MCMV infection. Our data indicate similar phenotypes for Dicer- and Dgcr8- deficient NK cells, which strongly suggest that these processes are regulated by miRNAs. Thus, our findings indicate a critical role for miRNAs in controlling NK cell homeostasis and effector function, with implications for miRNAs regulating diverse aspects of NK cell biology.
NK cells; microRNA; Dicer; Dgcr8; cytomegalovirus; NKG2D
The broad involvement of miRNAs in critical processes underlying development, tissue homoeostasis and disease has led to a surging interest among the research and pharmaceutical communities. To study miRNAs, it is essential that the quantification of microRNA levels is accurate and robust. By comparing wild-type to small RNA deficient mouse embryonic stem cells (mESC), we revealed a lack of accuracy and robustness in previous published multiplex qRT-PCR techniques. Here, we describe an optimized method, including purifying away excessive primers from previous multiplex steps before singleplex real time detection, which dramatically increases the accuracy and robustness of the technique. Furthermore, we explain how performing the technique on a microfluidic chip at nanoliter volumes significantly reduces reagent costs and permits time effective high throughput miRNA expression profiling.
MicroRNAs (miRNAs) constitute a new class of regulators of gene expression. Among other actions, miRNAs have been shown to control cell proliferation in development and cancer. However, whether miRNAs regulate hepatocyte proliferation during liver regeneration is unknown. We addressed this question by performing 2/3 partial hepatectomy (2/3 PH) on mice with hepatocyte-specific inactivation of DiGeorge syndrome critical region gene 8 (DGCR8), an essential component of the miRNA processing pathway. Hepatocytes of these mice were miRNA-deficient and exhibited a delay in cell cycle progression involving the G1 to S phase transition. Examination of livers of wildtype mice after 2/3 PH revealed differential expression of a subset of miRNAs, notably an induction of miR-21 and repression of miR-378. We further discovered that miR-21 directly inhibits Btg2, a cell cycle inhibitor that prevents activation of forkhead box M1 (FoxM1), which is essential for DNA synthesis in hepatocytes after 2/3 PH. In addition, we found that miR-378 directly inhibits ornithine decarboxylase (Odc1), which is known to promote DNA synthesis in hepatocytes after 2/3 PH.
Our results show that miRNAs are critical regulators of hepatocyte proliferation during liver regeneration. Because these miRNAs and target gene interactions are conserved, our findings may also be relevant to human liver regeneration.
Neuronal phenotypes associated with hemizygosity of individual genes within the 22q11.2 deletion syndrome locus hold potential towards understanding the pathogenesis of schizophrenia and autism. Included among these genes is Dgcr8, which encodes an RNA-binding protein required for microRNA biogenesis. Dgcr8 haploinsufficient mice (Dgcr8+/-) have reduced expression of microRNAs in brain and display cognitive deficits, but how microRNA deficiency affects the development and function of neurons in the cerebral cortex is not fully understood.
In this study, we show that Dgcr8+/- mice display reduced expression of a subset of microRNAs in the prefrontal cortex, a deficit that emerges over postnatal development. Layer V pyramidal neurons in the medial prefrontal cortex of Dgcr8+/- mice have altered electrical properties, decreased complexity of basal dendrites, and reduced excitatory synaptic transmission.
These findings demonstrate that precise microRNA expression is critical for the postnatal development of prefrontal cortical circuitry. Similar defects in neuronal maturation resulting from microRNA deficiency could represent endophenotypes of certain neuropsychiatric diseases of developmental onset.
Inactivation of the p53 tumor-suppressor pathway occurs in many human cancers, however some cancers such as neuroblastoma and normal stem cells maintain wild-type p53. Here we describe a microRNA, miR-380-5p, that represses p53 expression via a conserved sequence in the p53 3′UTR. miR-380-5p is highly expressed in embryonic stem cells and neuroblastomas and high expression correlates with poor outcome in neuroblastomas with MYCN amplification. miR-380 overexpression cooperates with activated RAS to transform primary cells, form tumors in mice, and block oncogene induced senescence. In contrast, inhibition of endogenous miR-380-5p in embryonic stem or neuroblastoma cells results in induction of miR-380-5p targets including p53 and extensive apoptotic cell death. In vivo delivery of a miR-380-5p antagonist decreases tumor size in an orthotopic mouse model of neuroblastoma. We demonstrate a new mechanism of p53 regulation in cancer and stem cells and uncover a potential therapeutic target for neuroblastoma.
Dicer, which is required for the processing of both micro-RNAs (miRNAs) and small interfering RNAs (siRNAs), is essential for oocyte maturation [1, 2]. Oocytes express both miRNAs and endogenous siRNAs (endo-siRNAs) [3, 4]. To determine whether the abnormalities in Dicer knockout oocytes during meiotic maturation are secondary to the loss of endo-siRNAs and/or miRNAs, we deleted Dgcr8, which encodes an RNA-binding protein specifically required for miRNA processing. In striking contrast to Dicer, Dgcr8-deficient oocytes matured normally and, when fertilized with wild-type sperm, produced healthy-appearing offspring, even though miRNA levels were reduced to similar levels as Dicer-deficient oocytes. Furthermore, the deletion of both maternal and zygotic Dgcr8 alleles did not impair preimplantation development, including the determination of the inner cell mass and trophectoderm. Most surprisingly, the mRNA profiles of wild-type and Dgcr8 null oocytes were essentially identical, whereas Dicer null oocytes showed hundreds of misregulated transcripts. These findings show that miRNA function is globally suppressed during oocyte maturation and preimplantation development and that endo-siRNAs, rather than miRNAs, underlie the Dicer knockout phenotype in oocytes.
The molecular controls that govern the differentiation of embryonic stem (ES) cells remain poorly understood. DGCR8 is an RNA-binding protein that assists the RNase III enzyme Drosha in the processing of microRNAs (miRNAs), a subclass of small RNAs. Here we study the role of miRNAs in ES cell differentiation by generating a Dgcr8 knockout model. Analysis of mouse knockout ES cells shows that DGCR8 is essential for biogenesis of miRNAs. On the induction of differentiation, DGCR8-deficient ES cells do not fully downregulate pluripotency markers and retain the ability to produce ES cell colonies; however, they do express some markers of differentiation. This phenotype differs from that reported for Dicer1 knockout cells, suggesting that Dicer has miRNA-independent roles in ES cell function. Our findings indicate that miRNAs function in the silencing of ES cell self-renewal that normally occurs with the induction of differentiation.
Reprogramming of a differentiated cell nucleus by somatic cell nuclear transplantation is an inefficient process. Following nuclear transfer, the donor nucleus often fails to express early embryonic genes and establish a normal embryonic pattern of chromatin modifications. These defects correlate with the low number of cloned embryos able to produce embryonic stem cells or develop into adult animals. Here, we show that the differentiation and methylation state of the donor cell influence the efficiency of genomic reprogramming. First, neural stem cells, when used as donors for nuclear transplantation, produce embryonic stem cells at a higher efficiency than blastocysts derived from terminally differentiated neuronal donor cells, demonstrating a correlation between the state of differentiation and cloning efficiency. Second, using a hypomorphic allele of DNA methyl-transferase-1, we found that global hypomethylation of a differentiated cell genome improved cloning efficiency. Our results provide functional evidence that the differentiation and epigenetic state of the donor nucleus influences reprogramming efficiency.
Embryonic stem cells; DNA methylation; Nuclear transfer; Reprogramming
Heart failure is a deadly and devastating disease that places immense costs on an aging society. In order to develop therapies aimed at rescuing the failing heart, it is important to understand the molecular mechanisms underlying cardiomyocyte structure and function.
microRNAs are important regulators of gene expression and we sought to define the global contributions made by microRNAs toward maintaining cardiomyocyte integrity.
METHODS AND RESULTS
First, we performed deep sequencing analysis to catalog the miRNA population in the adult heart. Secondly, we genetically deleted, in cardiac myocytes, an essential component of the machinery that is required to generate miRNAs. Deep sequencing of miRNAs from the heart revealed the enrichment of a small number of microRNAs with one, miR-1, accounting for 40% of all microRNAs. Cardiomyocyte-specific deletion of dgcr8, a gene required for microRNA biogenesis, revealed a fully penetrant phenotype that begins with left ventricular malfunction progressing to a dilated cardiomyopathy and premature lethality.
These observations reveal a critical role for microRNAs in maintaining cardiac function in mature cardiomyocytes and raise the possibility that only a handful of microRNAs maybe ultimately be responsible for the dramatic cardiac phenotype seen in the absence of dgcr8.
When embryonic stem cells (ESCs) differentiate, they must both silence the ESC self-renewal program as well as activate new tissue specific programs. In the absence of DGCR8 (Dgcr8 -/-), a protein required for microRNA (miRNA) biogenesis, mouse ESCs are unable to silence self-renewal. Here, we find that the introduction of let-7 miRNAs, a family of miRNAs highly expressed in somatic cells, can suppress self-renewal in Dgcr8 -/-, but not wild-type ESCs. Introduction of ESC cell cycle regulating (ESCC) miRNAs into the Dgcr8 -/- ESCs, blocks the capacity of let-7 to suppress self-renewal. Profiling and bioinformatic analyses show that let-7 inhibits while ESCC miRNAs indirectly activate numerous self-renewal genes. Furthermore, inhibition of the let-7 family promotes de-differentiation of somatic cells to induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells. Together, these findings show how the ESCC and let-7 miRNAs act through common pathways to alternatively stabilize the self-renewing versus differentiated cell fates.
The cell cycle is tightly orchestrated during normal development. Embryonic stem (ES) cells have a unique cell cycle structure, where the G1/S restriction is largely absent enabling cells to rapidly move through G1 and enter S phase. This hastened cell cycle allows the early embryo to rapidly grow. Recent experiments suggest that small non-coding RNAs, the microRNAs, play a central role in achieving this unique cell cycle structure. The responsible microRNAs function by suppressing multiple inhibitors of the G1/S transition. Expression of these miRNAs drops dramatically as the ES cells differentiate and the G1 phase extends. Some of the same miRNAs are overexpressed in cancers where they can promote tumor growth suggesting common mechanisms of miRNA regulated cell cycle control in ES cells and cancers. This review discusses these recent findings in the context of broader knowledge of cell cycle control in normal and abnormal development.
The Drosha-DGCR8 complex, also known as Microprocessor, is essential for microRNA (miRNA) maturation. Drosha functions as the catalytic subunit, while DGCR8 (also known as Pasha) recognizes the RNA substrate. Although the action mechanism of this complex has been intensively studied, it remains unclear how Drosha and DGCR8 are regulated and if these proteins have any additional role(s) apart from miRNA processing. Here, we report that Drosha and DGCR8 regulate each other posttranscriptionally. The Drosha-DGCR8 complex cleaves the hairpin structures embedded in the DGCR8 mRNA and thereby destabilizes the mRNA. We further find that DGCR8 stabilizes the Drosha protein via protein-protein interaction. This crossregulation between Drosha and DGCR8 may contribute to the homeostatic control of miRNA biogenesis. Furthermore, microarray analyses suggest that a number of mRNAs may be downregulated in a Microprocessor-dependent, miRNA-independent manner. Our study reveals a previously unsuspected function of Microprocessor in mRNA stability control.
This report demonstrates that introduction of physiologically relevant miRNAs can enhance somatic cell reprogramming. The mouse embryonic stem (ES) cell specific microRNAs (miRNA) miR-291-3p, miR-294, and miR-295 enhanced the efficiency of Klf4, Oct4 and Sox2 induced pluripotency. These miRNAs did not further enhance reprogramming in the presence of cMyc. cMyc binds the promoter of these miRNAs, suggesting that they are downstream effectors of cMyc promoted pluripotency. However, unlike exogenous cMyc, these miRNAs induced a homogeneous population of reprogrammed colonies suggesting overlapping and independent functions of cMyc and the miRNAs.
The Microprocessor, containing the RNA binding protein Dgcr8 and RNase III enzyme Drosha, is responsible for processing primary microRNAs to precursor microRNAs. The Microprocessor regulates its own levels by cleaving hairpins in the 5′UTR and coding region of the Dgcr8 mRNA, thereby destabilizing the mature transcript.
To determine whether the Microprocessor has a broader role in directly regulating other coding mRNA levels, we integrated results from expression profiling and ultra high-throughput deep sequencing of small RNAs. Expression analysis of mRNAs in wild-type, Dgcr8 knockout, and Dicer knockout mouse embryonic stem (ES) cells uncovered mRNAs that were specifically upregulated in the Dgcr8 null background. A number of these transcripts had evolutionarily conserved predicted hairpin targets for the Microprocessor. However, analysis of deep sequencing data of 18 to 200nt small RNAs in mouse ES, HeLa, and HepG2 indicates that exonic sequence reads that map in a pattern consistent with Microprocessor activity are unique to Dgcr8.
We conclude that the Microprocessor's role in directly destabilizing coding mRNAs is likely specifically targeted to Dgcr8 itself, suggesting a specialized cellular mechanism for gene auto-regulation.
Dgcr8 knockout embryonic stem (ES) cells lack microprocessor activity and hence all canonical microRNAs (miRNAs). These cells proliferate slowly and accumulate in G1 phase of the cell cycle1. Here, by screening a comprehensive library of individual miRNAs in the background of the Dgcr8 knockout ES cells, we report that multiple ES cell-specific miRNAs, members of the miR-290 family, rescue the ES cell proliferation defect. Furthermore, rescued cells no longer accumulate in the G1 phase of the cell cycle. These miRNAs function by suppressing several key regulators of the G1/S transition. These results show that post-transcriptional regulation by miRNAs promotes the G1/S transition of the ES cell cycle enabling their rapid proliferation. Furthermore, our screening strategy provides an alternative and powerful approach for uncovering the role of individual miRNAs in biological processes as it overcomes the common problem of redundancy and saturation in the miRNA system.
The regulation of gene expression is complex and occurs at many levels, including transcriptional and post-transcriptional, in metazoans. Transcriptional regulation is mainly determined by sequence elements within the promoter regions of genes while sequence elements within the 3' untranslated regions of mRNAs play important roles in post-transcriptional regulation such as mRNA stability and translation efficiency. Identifying cis-regulatory elements, or motifs, in multicellular eukaryotes is more difficult compared to unicellular eukaryotes due to the larger intergenic sequence space and the increased complexity in regulation. Experimental techniques for discovering functional elements are often time consuming and not easily applied on a genome level. Consequently, computational methods are advantageous for genome-wide cis-regulatory motif detection. To decrease the search space in metazoans, many algorithms use cross-species alignment, although studies have demonstrated that a large portion of the binding sites for the same trans-acting factor do not reside in alignable regions. Therefore, a computational algorithm should account for both conserved and nonconserved cis-regulatory elements in metazoans.
We present CompMoby (Comparative MobyDick), software developed to identify cis-regulatory binding sites at both the transcriptional and post-transcriptional levels in metazoans without prior knowledge of the trans-acting factors. The CompMoby algorithm was previously shown to identify cis-regulatory binding sites in upstream regions of genes co-regulated in embryonic stem cells. In this paper, we extend the software to identify putative cis-regulatory motifs in 3' UTR sequences and verify our results using experimentally validated data sets in mouse and human. We also detail the implementation of CompMoby into a user-friendly tool that includes a web interface to a streamlined analysis. Our software allows detection of motifs in the following three categories: one, those that are alignable and conserved; two, those that are conserved but not alignable; three, those that are species specific. One of the output files from CompMoby gives the user the option to decide what category of cis-regulatory element to experimentally pursue based on their biological problem. Using experimentally validated biological datasets, we demonstrate that CompMoby is successful in detecting cis-regulatory target sites of known and novel trans-acting factors at the transcriptional and post-transcriptional levels.
CompMoby is a powerful software tool for systematic de novo discovery of evolutionarily conserved and nonconserved cis-regulatory sequences involved in transcriptional or post-transcriptional regulation in metazoans. This software is freely available to users at .