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Friday, June 28, 2013

Suppression and Epigenetic Regulation of MiR-9 Contributes to Ethanol Teratology: Evidence from Zebrafish and Murine Fetal Neural Stem Cell Models

Fetal alcohol exposure produces multiorgan defects, making it difficult to identify underlying etiological mechanisms. However, recent evidence for ethanol (EtOH) sensitivity of the miRNA miR-9 suggests one mechanism, whereby EtOH broadly influences development. We hypothesized that loss of miR-9 function recapitulates aspects of EtOH teratology.
Zebrafish embryos were exposed to EtOH during gastrulation, or injected with anti-miR-9 or nonsense control morpholinos during the 2-cell stage of development and collected between 24 and 72 hours postfertilization (hpf). We also assessed the expression of developmentally important, and known miR-9 targets, FGFR-1, FOXP2, and the nontargeted transcript, MECP2. Methylation at CpG islands of mammalian miR-9 genes was assessed in fetal murine neural stem cells (mNSCs) by methylation-specific PCR, and miRNA processing assessed by qRT-PCR for pre-miR-9 transcripts.
EtOH treatment and miR-9 knockdown resulted in similar cranial defects including microcephaly. Additionally, EtOH transiently suppressed miR-9, as well as FGFR-1 and FOXP2, and alterations in miR-9 expression were correlated with severity of EtOH-induced teratology. In mNSCs, EtOH increased CpG dinucleotide methylation at the miR-9-2 locus and accumulation of pre-miR-9-3.
EtOH exerts regulatory control at multiple levels of miR-9 biogenesis. Moreover, early embryonic loss of miR-9 function recapitulated the severe range of teratology associated with developmental EtOH exposure. EtOH also disrupts the relationship between miR-9 and target gene expression, suggesting a nuanced relationship between EtOH and miRNA regulatory networks in the developing embryo. The implications of these data for the expression and function of mature miR-9 warrant further investigation.

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