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Molecular Brain

, 7:71

First Online: 01 October 2014Received: 08 July 2014Accepted: 18 September 2014


BackgroundMutations in the human FOXP2 gene cause speech and language impairments. The FOXP2 protein is a transcription factor that regulates the expression of many downstream genes, which may have important roles in nervous system development and function. An adequate amount of functional FOXP2 protein is thought to be critical for the proper development of the neural circuitry underlying speech and language. However, how FOXP2 gene expression is regulated is not clearly understood. The FOXP2 mRNA has an approximately 4-kb-long 3- untranslated region 3- UTR, twice as long as its protein coding region, indicating that FOXP2 can be regulated by microRNAs miRNAs.

FindingsWe identified multiple miRNAs that regulate the expression of the human FOXP2 gene using sequence analysis and in vitro cell systems. Focusing on let-7a, miR-9, and miR-129-5p, three brain-enriched miRNAs, we show that these miRNAs regulate human FOXP2 expression in a dosage-dependent manner and target specific sequences in the FOXP2 3- UTR. We further show that these three miRNAs are expressed in the cerebellum of the human fetal brain, where FOXP2 is known to be expressed.

ConclusionsOur results reveal novel regulatory functions of the human FOXP2 3- UTR sequence and regulatory interactions between multiple miRNAs and the human FOXP2 gene. The expression of let-7a, miR-9, and miR-129-5p in the human fetal cerebellum is consistent with their roles in regulating FOXP2 expression during early cerebellum development. These results suggest that various genetic and environmental factors may contribute to speech and language development and related neural developmental disorders via the miRNA-FOXP2 regulatory network.

KeywordsmiRNAs FOXP2 3- UTR Post-transcriptional regulation Speech and language Cerebellum Abbreviations3- UTRs3- untranslated regions

qRT-PCRQuantitative real time polymerase chain reaction

Electronic supplementary materialThe online version of this article doi:10.1186-s13041-014-0071-0 contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.

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Autor: Lijuan Fu - Zhimin Shi - Guanzheng Luo - Weihong Tu - XiuJie Wang - Zhide Fang - XiaoChing Li


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