MicroRNAs (miRNAs) have been shown to play an important role in hematopoiesis. To elucidate the role of miRNAs in the early steps of hematopoiesis, we directly compared donor-matched CD133(+) cells with the more differentiated CD34(+) CD133(-) and CD34(-) CD133(-) cells from bone marrow on the miRNA and mRNA level. Using quantitative whole genome miRNA microarray and sequencing-based profiling, we found that between 109 (CD133(+) ) and 216 (CD34(-) CD133(-) ) miRNAs were expressed. Quantification revealed that the 25 highest expressed miRNAs accounted for 73% of the total miRNA pool. miR-142-3p was the highest expressed miRNA with up to 2,000 copies per cell in CD34(+) CD133(-) cells. Eighteen miRNAs were significantly differentially expressed between CD133(+) and CD34(+) CD133(-) cells. We analyzed their biological role by examining the coexpression of miRNAs and its bioinformatically predicted mRNA targets and luciferase-based reporter assays. We provide the first evidence for a direct regulation of CD133 by miR-142-3p as well as tropomyosin 1 and frizzled homolog 5 by miR-29a. Overexpression of miRNAs in CD133(+) cells demonstrated that miR-142-3p has a negative influence on the overall colony-forming ability. In conclusion, the miRNAs expressed differentially between the CD133(+) and CD34(+) CD133(-) cells are involved in inhibition of differentiation, prevention of apoptosis, and cytoskeletal remodeling. These results are highly relevant for stem cell-based therapies with CD133(+) cells and delineate for the first time how the stem cell character of CD133(+) cells is defined by the expression of specific miRNAs.
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