Background: MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are small non-coding RNAs that regulate complex transcriptional networks underpin immune responses. However, little is known about the specific miRNA networks that control differentiation of specific leukocyte subsets. In this study, we profiled miRNA expression during differentiation of eosinophils from bone marrow (BM) progenitors (bmEos), and correlated expression with potential mRNA targets involved in crucial regulatory functions. Profiling was performed on whole BM cultures to document the dynamic changes in miRNA expression in the BM microenvironment over the differentiation period. miRNA for network analysis were identified in BM cultures enriched in differentiating eosinophils, and chosen for their potential ability to target mRNA of factors that are known to play critical roles in eosinophil differentiation pathways or cell identify.
Methodology/principal findings: We identified 68 miRNAs with expression patterns that were up- or down- regulated 5-fold or more during bmEos differentiation. By employing TargetScan and MeSH databases, we identified 348 transcripts involved in 30 canonical pathways as potentially regulated by these miRNAs. Furthermore, by applying miRanda and Ingenuity Pathways Analysis (IPA), we identified 13 specific miRNAs that are temporally associated with the expression of IL-5Rα and CCR3 and 14 miRNAs associated with the transcription factors GATA-1/2, PU.1 and C/EBPε. We have also identified 17 miRNAs that may regulate the expression of TLRs 4 and 13 during eosinophil differentiation, although we could identify no miRNAs targeting the prominent secretory effector, eosinophil major basic protein.
Conclusions/significance: This is the first study to map changes in miRNA expression in whole BM cultures during the differentiation of eosinophils, and to predict functional links between miRNAs and their target mRNAs for the regulation of eosinophilopoiesis. Our findings provide an important resource that will promote the platform for further understanding of the role of these non-coding RNAs in the regulation of eosinophil differentiation and function.