The gene silencing transcription factor REST [repressor element 1 silencing transcription factor]/NRSF (neuron-restrictive silencer factor) actively represses a large array of coding and noncoding neuron-specific genes important to synaptic plasticity including miR-132. miR-132 is a neuron-specific microRNA and plays a pivotal role in synaptogenesis, synaptic plasticity and structural remodeling. However, a role for miR-132 in neuronal death is not, as yet, well-delineated. Here we show that ischemic insults promote REST binding and epigenetic remodeling at the miR-132 promoter and silencing of miR-132 expression in selectively vulnerable hippocampal CA1 neurons. REST occupancy was not altered at the miR-9 or miR-124a promoters despite the presence of repressor element 1 sites, indicating REST target specificity. Ischemia induced a substantial decrease in two marks of active gene transcription, dimethylation of lysine 4 on core histone 3 (H3K4me2) and acetylation of lysine 9 on H3 (H3K9ac) at the miR-132 promoter. RNAi-mediated depletion of REST in vivo blocked ischemia-induced loss of miR-132 in insulted hippocampal neurons, consistent with a causal relation between activation of REST and silencing of miR-132. Overexpression of miR-132 in primary cultures of hippocampal neurons or delivered directly into the CA1 of living rats by means of the lentiviral expression system prior to induction of ischemia afforded robust protection against ischemia-induced neuronal death. These findings document a previously unappreciated role for REST-dependent repression of miR-132 in the neuronal death associated with global ischemia and identify a novel therapeutic target for amelioration of the neurodegeneration and cognitive deficits associated with ischemic stroke.
Keywords: epigenetic modifications; global ischemia; hippocampus; microRNAs; neuronal death.
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