Comprehensive gene and microRNA expression profiling reveals a role for microRNAs in human liver development

Galit Tzur, Ariel Israel, Asaf Levy, Hila Benjamin, Eti Meiri, Yoel Shufaro, Karen Meir, Elina Khvalevsky, Yael Spector, Nathan Rojansky, Zvi Bentwich, Benjamin E Reubinoff, Eithan Galun
PloS One 2009, 4 (10): e7511

BACKGROUND AND AIMS: microRNAs (miRNAs) are small noncoding RNAs that regulate cognate mRNAs post-transcriptionally. miRNAs have been implicated in regulating gene expression in embryonic developmental processes, including proliferation and differentiation. The liver is a multifunctional organ, which undergoes rapid changes during the developmental period and relies on tightly-regulated gene expression. Little is known regarding the complex expression patterns of both mRNAs and miRNAs during the early stages of human liver development, and the role of miRNAs in the regulation of this process has not been studied. The aim of this work was to study the impact of miRNAs on gene expression during early human liver development.

METHODS: Global gene and miRNA expression were profiled in adult and in 9-12w human embryonic livers, using high-density microarrays and quantitative RT-PCR.

RESULTS: Embryonic liver samples exhibited a gene expression profile that differentiated upon progression in the developmental process, and revealed multiple regulated genes. miRNA expression profiling revealed four major expression patterns that correlated with the known function of regulated miRNAs. Comparison of the expression of the most regulated miRNAs to that of their putative targets using a novel algorithm revealed a significant anti-correlation for several miRNAs, and identified the most active miRNAs in embryonic and in adult liver. Furthermore, our algorithm facilitated the identification of TGFbeta-R1 as a novel target gene of let-7.

CONCLUSIONS: Our results uncover multiple regulated miRNAs and genes throughout human liver development, and our algorithm assists in identification of novel miRNA targets with potential roles in liver development.

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