Long-term ethanol exposure: Temporal pattern of microRNA expression and associated mRNA gene networks in mouse brain.
PLoS One. 2018 ;13(1):e0190841. Epub 2018 Jan 9. PMID: 29315347
Elizabeth A Osterndorff-Kahanek
Long-term alcohol use can result in lasting changes in brain function, ultimately leading to alcohol dependence. These functional alterations arise from dysregulation of complex gene networks, and growing evidence implicates microRNAs as key regulators of these networks. We examined time- and brain region-dependent changes in microRNA expression after chronic intermittent ethanol (CIE) exposure in C57BL/6J mice. Animals were sacrificed at 0, 8, and 120h following the last exposure to four weekly cycles of CIE vapor and we measured microRNA expression in prefrontal cortex (PFC), nucleus accumbens (NAC), and amygdala (AMY). The number of detected (395-419) and differentially expressed (DE, 42-47) microRNAs was similar within each brain region. However, the DE microRNAs were distinct among brain regions and across time within each brain region. DE microRNAs were linked with their DE mRNA targets across each brain region. In all brain regions, the greatest number of DE mRNA targets occurred at the 0 or 8h time points and these changes were associated with microRNAs DE at 0 or 8h. Two separate approaches (discrete temporal association and hierarchical clustering) were combined with pathway analysis to further characterize the temporal relationships between DE microRNAs and their 120h DE targets. We focused on targets dysregulated at 120h as this time point represents a state of protracted withdrawal known to promote an increase in subsequent ethanol consumption. Discrete temporal association analysis identified networks with highly connected genes including ERK1/2 (mouse equivalent Mapk3, Mapk1), Bcl2 (in AMY networks) and Srf (in PFC networks). Similarly, the cluster-based analysis identified hub genes that include Bcl2 (in AMY networks) and Srf in PFC networks, demonstrating robust microRNA-mRNA network alterations in response to CIE exposure. In contrast, datasets utilizing targets from 0 and 8h microRNAs identified NF-kB-centered networks (in NAC and PFC), and Smad3-centered networks (in AMY). These results demonstrate that CIE exposure results in dynamic and complex temporal changes in microRNA-mRNA gene network structure.