MicroRNAs miR-144/144* and miR-16 in peripheral blood are potential biomarkers for naturalistic stress in healthy Japanese medical students

Neurosci Lett. 2012 May 10;516(1):79-84. doi: 10.1016/j.neulet.2012.03.062. Epub 2012 Mar 30.


Non-coding microRNAs (miRNAs) are suggested to serve fundamental roles in cellular stress responses and in coping with sudden environmental changes in experimental animals. We examined whether naturalistic stressor-responsive miRNAs were detectable in whole blood. Blood and saliva were collected between 16:00 and 17:00 from 10 healthy medical students (5 males and 5 females; aged 22.4±0.8 years, mean±SD) 7 weeks before, one day before, immediately after, and one week after a nationally administered examination for academic promotion. Samples obtained one week after the examination were used as baseline controls. State anxiety and salivary cortisol levels reached maximum levels the day before the examination. Eleven candidate miRNAs (miR-144, -144*, -16, -15a, -19a, -19b, -26b, -30b, -106b, -126, and -142-3p) were extracted using a human miRNA microarray, and quantitative real-time reverse transcription PCR confirmed significant elevation of miR-144/144* and miR-16 levels immediately after finishing the examination. miR-16 levels in individual students were positively correlated with those of serum tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-α measured immediately after the examination. Percentage changes in miR-144* and miR-16 levels from immediately after to one week after the examination were significantly correlated with percentage changes in circulating interferon-γ and/or TNF-α levels over the same time points. Our results suggest that miR-144/144* and miR-16 may constitute a part of an integrated response to naturalistic stressors in healthy young adults.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Biomarkers / blood
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interferon-gamma / blood*
  • Interferon-gamma / genetics
  • Japan / epidemiology
  • Male
  • MicroRNAs / blood*
  • Prevalence
  • Stress, Psychological / blood*
  • Stress, Psychological / epidemiology*
  • Students, Medical / statistics & numerical data*
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / blood*
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / genetics
  • Young Adult


  • Biomarkers
  • IFNG protein, human
  • MIRN144 microRNA, human
  • MIRN16 microRNA, human
  • MicroRNAs
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha
  • Interferon-gamma