miR-181 regulates GRP78 and influences outcome from cerebral ischemia in vitro and in vivo

Neurobiol Dis. 2012 Jan;45(1):555-63. doi: 10.1016/j.nbd.2011.09.012. Epub 2011 Sep 24.


MicroRNAs (miRNA) are short (~22nt) single stranded RNAs that downregulate gene expression. Although recent studies indicate extensive miRNA changes in response to ischemic brain injury, there is currently little information on the roles of specific miRNAs in this setting. Heat shock proteins (HSP) of the HSP70 family have been extensively studied for their multiple roles in cellular protection, but there is little information on their regulation by miRNAs. We used bioinformatics to identify miR-181 as a possible regulator of several HSP70 family members. We validated GRP78/BIP as a target by dual luciferase assay. In response to stroke in the mouse we find that miR-181 increases in the core, where cells die, but decreases in the penumbra, where cells survive. Increased levels of miR-181a are associated with decreased GRP78 protein levels, but increased levels of mRNA, implicating translational arrest. We manipulated levels of miR-181a using plasmid overexpression of pri-miR-181ab or mimic to increase, and antagomir or inhibitor to reduce levels. Increased miR-181a exacerbated injury both in vitro and in the mouse stroke model. Conversely, reduced levels were associated with reduced injury and increased GRP78 protein levels. Studies in C6 cells show that if GRP78 levels are maintained miR-181a no longer exerts a toxic effect. These data demonstrate that miR-181 levels change in response to stroke and inversely correlate with levels of GRP78. Importantly, reducing or blocking miR-181a protects the brain from stroke.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / metabolism*
  • Brain Ischemia / genetics*
  • Brain Ischemia / metabolism
  • Endoplasmic Reticulum Chaperone BiP
  • Gene Expression
  • Heat-Shock Proteins / genetics*
  • Heat-Shock Proteins / metabolism
  • Mice
  • MicroRNAs / genetics*
  • MicroRNAs / metabolism
  • Neurons / metabolism
  • Stroke / genetics*
  • Stroke / metabolism


  • Endoplasmic Reticulum Chaperone BiP
  • Heat-Shock Proteins
  • Hspa5 protein, mouse
  • MicroRNAs