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miR-181a negatively modulates synaptic plasticity in hippocampal cultures and its inhibition rescues memory deficits in a mouse model of Alzheimer's disease.


MicroRNAs play a pivotal role in rapid, dynamic, and spatiotemporal modulation of synaptic functions. Among them, recent emerging evidence highlights that microRNA-181a (miR-181a) is particularly abundant in hippocampal neurons and controls the expression of key plasticity-related proteins at synapses. We have previously demonstrated that miR-181a was upregulated in the hippocampus of a mouse model of Alzheimer's disease (AD) and correlated with reduced levels of plasticity-related proteins. Here, we further investigated the underlying mechanisms by which miR-181a negatively modulated synaptic plasticity and memory. In primary hippocampal cultures, we found that an activity-dependent upregulation of the microRNA-regulating protein, translin, correlated with reduction of miR-181a upon chemical long-term potentiation (cLTP), which induced upregulation of GluA2, a predicted target for miR-181a, and other plasticity-related proteins. Additionally, Aβ treatment inhibited cLTP-dependent induction of translin and subsequent reduction of miR-181a, and cotreatment with miR-181a antagomir effectively reversed the effects elicited by Aβ but did not rescue translin levels, suggesting that the activity-dependent upregulation of translin was upstream of miR-181a. In mice, a learning episode markedly decreased miR-181a in the hippocampus and raised the protein levels of GluA2. Lastly, we observed that inhibition of miR-181a alleviated memory deficits and increased GluA2 and GluA1 levels, without restoring translin, in the 3xTg-AD model. Taken together, our results indicate that miR-181a is a major negative regulator of the cellular events that underlie synaptic plasticity and memory through AMPA receptors, and importantly, Aβ disrupts this process by suppressing translin and leads to synaptic dysfunction and memory impairments in AD.

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