Combined microRNA and mRNA expression analysis in pediatric multiple sclerosis: an integrated approach to uncover novel pathogenic mechanisms of the disease.Hum Mol Genet. 2018 01 01; 27(1):66-79.HM
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a complex disease of the CNS that usually affects young adults, although 3-5% of cases are diagnosed in childhood and adolescence (hence called pediatric MS, PedMS). Genetic predisposition, among other factors, seems to contribute to the risk of the onset, in pediatric as in adult ages, but few studies have investigated the genetic 'environmentally naïve' load of PedMS. The main goal of this study was to identify circulating markers (miRNAs), target genes (mRNAs) and functional pathways associated with PedMS; we also verified the impact of miRNAs on clinical features, i.e. disability and cognitive performances. The investigation was performed in 19 PedMS and 20 pediatric controls (PCs) using a High-Throughput Next-generation Sequencing (HT-NGS) approach followed by an integrated bioinformatics/biostatistics analysis. Twelve miRNAs were significantly upregulated (let-7a-5p, let-7b-5p, miR-25-3p, miR-125a-5p, miR-942-5p, miR-221-3p, miR-652-3p, miR-182-5p, miR-185-5p, miR-181a-5p, miR-320a, miR-99b-5p) and 1 miRNA was downregulated (miR-148b-3p) in PedMS compared with PCs. The interactions between the significant miRNAs and their targets uncovered predicted genes (i.e. TNFSF13B, TLR2, BACH2, KLF4) related to immunological functions, as well as genes involved in autophagy-related processes (i.e. ATG16L1, SORT1, LAMP2) and ATPase activity (i.e. ABCA1, GPX3). No significant molecular profiles were associated with any PedMS demographic/clinical features. Both miRNAs and mRNA expressions predicted the phenotypes (PedMS-PC) with an accuracy of 92% and 91%, respectively. In our view, this original strategy of contemporary miRNA/mRNA analysis may help to shed light in the genetic background of the disease, suggesting further molecular investigations in novel pathogenic mechanisms.