JOURNAL ARTICLE
META-ANALYSIS
SYSTEMATIC REVIEW
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The role of microRNAs in understanding sex-based differences in Alzheimer's disease.

BACKGROUND: The incidence of Alzheimer's disease (AD)-the most frequent cause of dementia-is expected to increase as life expectancies rise across the globe. While sex-based differences in AD have previously been described, there remain uncertainties regarding any association between sex and disease-associated molecular mechanisms. Studying sex-specific expression profiles of regulatory factors such as microRNAs (miRNAs) could contribute to more accurate disease diagnosis and treatment.

METHODS: A systematic review identified six studies of microRNA expression in AD patients that incorporated information regarding the biological sex of samples in the Gene Expression Omnibus repository. A differential microRNA expression analysis was performed, considering disease status and patient sex. Subsequently, results were integrated within a meta-analysis methodology, with a functional enrichment of meta-analysis results establishing an association between altered miRNA expression and relevant Gene Ontology terms.

RESULTS: Meta-analyses of miRNA expression profiles in blood samples revealed the alteration of sixteen miRNAs in female and 22 miRNAs in male AD patients. We discovered nine miRNAs commonly overexpressed in both sexes, suggesting a shared miRNA dysregulation profile. Functional enrichment results based on miRNA profiles revealed sex-based differences in biological processes; most affected processes related to ubiquitination, regulation of different kinase activities, and apoptotic processes in males, but RNA splicing and translation in females. Meta-analyses of miRNA expression profiles in brain samples revealed the alteration of six miRNAs in female and four miRNAs in male AD patients. We observed a single underexpressed miRNA in female and male AD patients (hsa-miR-767-5p); however, the functional enrichment analysis for brain samples did not reveal any specifically affected biological process.

CONCLUSIONS: Sex-specific meta-analyses supported the detection of differentially expressed miRNAs in female and male AD patients, highlighting the relevance of sex-based information in biomedical data. Further studies on miRNA regulation in AD patients should meet the criteria for comparability and standardization of information.

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