MicroRNA-138 Overexpression Alters Aβ42 Levels and Behavior in Wildtype Mice

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Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is a progressive neurodegenerative disorder characterized by changes in cognitive and behavioral functions. With the exception or rare mutations in PSEN and APP genes causing early-onset autosomal dominant AD (EOADAD), little is known about the genetic factors that underlie the vast majority (>95%) of early onset AD (EOAD) cases. We have previously identified copy number variations (CNVs) in microRNA genes in patients with EOAD, including a duplication of the MIR-138-2 gene. Overexpression of miR-138 in cultured cells increased Aβ production and tau phosphorylation, similar to what is seen in AD brain. In this study, we sought to determine if miR-138 overexpression could recapitulate certain features of disease in vivo in non-transgenic mice. A mild overexpression of pre-miR-138 in the brain of C57BL/6J wildtype mice altered learning and memory in a novel object recognition test and in the Barnes Maze. Increased levels of anxiety were also observed in the open-field test. MiR-138 upregulation in vivo caused an increase in endogenous Aβ42 production as well as changes in synaptic and inflammation markers. Tau expression was significantly lower with no overt effects on phosphorylation. We finally observed that Sirt1, a direct target of miR-138 involved in Aβ production, learning and memory as well as anxiety, is decreased following miR-138 overexpression. In sum, this study further strengthens a role for increased gene dosage of MIR-138-2 gene in modulating AD risk, possibly by acting on different biological pathways. Further studies will be required to better understand the role of CNVs in microRNA genes in AD and related neurodegenerative disorders.

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