MicroRNA Expression for Early Prediction of Late Occurring Hematologic Acute Radiation Syndrome in Baboons

PLoS One. 2016 Nov 15;11(11):e0165307. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0165307. eCollection 2016.


For effective medical management of radiation-exposed persons after a radiological/nuclear event, blood-based screening measures in the first few days that could predict hematologic acute radiation syndrome (HARS) are needed. For HARS severity prediction, we used microRNA (miRNA) expression changes measured on days one and two after irradiation in a baboon model. Eighteen baboons underwent different patterns of partial or total body irradiation, corresponding to an equivalent dose of 2.5 or 5 Gy. According to changes in blood cell counts (BCC) the surviving baboons (n = 17) exhibited mild (H1-2, n = 4) or more severe (H2-3, n = 13) HARS. In a two Stage study design we screened 667 miRNAs using a quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction (qRT-PCR) platform. In Stage II we validated candidates where miRNAs had to show a similar regulation (up- or down-regulated) and a significant 2-fold miRNA expression difference over H0. Seventy-two candidate miRNAs (42 for H1-2 and 30 for H2-3) were forwarded for validation. Forty-two of the H1-2 miRNA candidates from the screening phase entered the validation step and 20 of them showed a statistically significant 2-4 fold up-regulation relative to the unexposed reference (H0). Fifteen of the 30 H2-3 miRNAs were validated in Stage II. All miRNAs appeared 2-3 fold down-regulated over H0 and allowed an almost complete separation of HARS categories; the strongest candidate, miR-342-3p, showed a sustained and 10-fold down-regulation on both days 1 and 2. In summary, our data support the medical decision making of the HARS even within the first two days after exposure where diagnostic tools for early medical decision are required but so far missing. The miRNA species identified and in particular miR-342-3p add to the previously identified mRNAs and complete the portfolio of identified mRNA and miRNA transcripts for HARS prediction and medical management.

MeSH terms

  • Acute Radiation Syndrome / blood
  • Acute Radiation Syndrome / diagnosis*
  • Acute Radiation Syndrome / genetics*
  • Animals
  • Gene Expression Profiling
  • Male
  • MicroRNAs / genetics*
  • MicroRNAs / metabolism
  • Papio / genetics*
  • RNA / isolation & purification
  • RNA, Messenger / genetics
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism
  • Radiation Exposure
  • Real-Time Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Time Factors


  • MicroRNAs
  • RNA, Messenger
  • RNA

Grants and funding

This work was supported by both the French and the German Ministry of Defense.