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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Differential microRNA expression in human placentas of term intra-uterine growth restriction that regulates target genes mediating angiogenesis and amino acid transport.

  • Author(s): Thamotharan, Shanthie
  • Chu, Alison
  • Kempf, Katie
  • Janzen, Carla
  • Grogan, Tristan
  • Elashoff, David A
  • Devaskar, Sherin U
  • et al.

Placental insufficiency leading to intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR) demonstrates perturbed gene expression affecting placental angiogenesis and nutrient transfer from mother to fetus. To understand the post-transcriptional mechanisms underlying such placental gene expression changes, our objective was to identify key non-coding microRNAs that express biological function. To this end, we initially undertook microarrays targeting microRNAs in a small sub-set of placentas of appropriate (AGA) versus small for gestational age (SGA) weight infants, and observed up-regulation of 97 miRs and down-regulation of 44 miRs in SGA versus AGA. In a larger cohort of samples (AGA, n = 21; SGA, n = 11; IUGR subset, n = 5), we validated by qRT-PCR differential expression of three specific microRNAs (miR-10b, -363 and -149) that target genes mediating angiogenesis and nutrient transfer. Validation yielded an increase in miR-10b and -363 expression of ~2.5-fold (p<0.02 each) in SGA versus AGA, and of ~3-fold (p<0.005) in IUGR versus AGA, with no significant change despite a trending increase in miR-149. To further establish a cause-and-effect paradigm, employing human HTR8 trophoblast cells, we assessed the effect of nutrient deprivation on miR expression and inhibition of endogenous miRs on target gene expression. In-vitro nutrient deprivation (~50%) increased the expression of miR-10b and miR-149 by 1.5-fold (p<0.02) while decreasing miR-363 (p<0.0001). Inhibition of endogenous miRs employing antisense sequences against miR-10b, -363 and -149 revealed an increase respectively in the expression of the target genes KLF-4 (transcription factor which regulates angiogenesis), SNAT1 and 2 (sodium coupled neutral amino acid transporters) and LAT2 (leucine amino acid transporter), which translated into a similar change in the corresponding proteins. Finally to establish functional significance we performed dual-luciferase reporter assays with 3'-insertion of miR-10b alone and observed a ~10% reduction in the 5'-luciferase activity versus the control. Lastly, we further validated by microarray and employing MirWalk software that the pathways and target genes identified by differentially expressed miRs in SGA/IUGR compared to AGA are consistent in a larger cohort. We have established the biological significance of various miRs that target common transcripts mediating pathways of importance, which are perturbed in the human IUGR placenta.

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