MicroRNA overexpression increases cortical neuronal vulnerability to injury

Jessie S. Truettner, Dario Motti, W. Dalton Dietrich

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

46 Scopus citations


Previously we reported that several microRNAs (miRNA) are upregulated following experimentally induced traumatic brain injury (TBI) using both in vivo and in vitro approaches. Specific miRNAs were found to be sensitive to therapeutic hypothermia and may therefore be important targets for neuroprotective strategies. In this study we developed plasmid constructs that overexpress temperature sensitive miRNAs: miR-34a, miR-451, and miR-874. These constructs were transfected into cultured cortical neurons that were subjected to stretch injury using a cell injury controller device. Levels of expression of genes associated with stress, inflammation, apoptosis and transcriptional regulation were measured by qRT-PCR. mRNA levels of cytokines interleukin 1-β (IL1-β) and tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-α) as well as heat shock protein 70 (HSP70) and Caspase 11 were found to be increased up to 24 fold higher than controls in cells overexpressing these miRNAs. After moderate stretch injury, the expression of IL1-β, TNF-α, HSP70 and Caspase 11 all increased over control levels found in uninjured cells suggesting that overexpression of these miRNAs increases cellular vulnerability. miR-34a directly inhibits Bcl2 and XIAP, both anti-apoptotic proteins. The observed increase in Caspase 11 with over-expression of miR-34a indicates that miR-34a may be inducing apoptosis by reducing the levels of anti-apoptotic proteins. miR-34a is predicted to inhibit Jun, which was seen to decrease in cells overexpressing this miRNA along with Fos. Over expression of several miRNAs found to be induced by TBI in vivo (miR-34a, miR-451 and miR-874) leads to increased vulnerability in transfected neurons. Therapeutic hypothermia blunts the expression of these miRNAs in vivo and antisense silencing could be a potential therapeutic approach to targeting the consequences of TBI.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)122-130
Number of pages9
JournalBrain research
StatePublished - Oct 2 2013


  • microRNA
  • miR-34a
  • miR-451
  • miR-874
  • Transfection
  • Traumatic brain injury

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Developmental Biology
  • Molecular Biology


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