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Age-Dependent Regulation of Dendritic Spine Density and Protein Expression in Mir324 KO Mice.

Dendritic spines are small, dynamic protrusions along the dendrite that comprise more than 90% of excitatory connections in the brain, making them essential sites for neuronal communication. These synaptic sites change throughout the process of development, reducing in density and shifting morphology as synapses are refined. One important class of dendritic spine regulators is microRNA (miRNA), small-noncoding RNAs that post-transcriptionally regulate gene expression. Several studies suggest that miRNA-324-5p regulates dendritic spine formation. In addition, we have previously shown that miR-324-5p plays a role in seizure and long-term potentiation, both of which involve dendritic spine changes. In this study, we aimed to characterize the role of miRNA-324-5p in developmental spine regulation by assessing the effect of Mir324 knockout (KO) on dendritic spine density and expression of a subset of dendritic proteins at select developmental time points. We show that miR-324-5p expression is developmentally regulated and peaks at 4 weeks of age. We demonstrate that loss of miR-324-5p expression leads to differential changes in both target protein expression and spine density at different time points during development, disrupting the pattern of spine density changes and leading to a premature loss of dendritic spines in KO mice, which is compensated later. Our findings indicate that miR-324-5p plays a role in synaptic refinement across development. Additionally, our data illustrate the importance of context in the study of miRNA, as regulation by and/or of miRNA can vary dramatically across development and in disease.

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