The medial entorhinal cortex (MEC) is important in spatial navigation and memory formation and its layers have distinct neuronal subtypes, connectivity, spatial properties, and disease susceptibility. As little is known about the molecular basis for the development of these laminar differences, we analyzed microRNA (miRNA) and messenger RNA (mRNA) expression differences between rat MEC layer II and layers III-VI during postnatal development. We identified layer and age-specific regulation of gene expression by miRNAs, which included processes related to neuron specialization and locomotor behavior. Further analyses by retrograde labeling and expression profiling of layer II stellate neurons and in situ hybridization revealed that the miRNA most up-regulated in layer II, miR-143, was enriched in stellate neurons, whereas the miRNA most up-regulated in deep layers, miR-219-5p, was expressed in ependymal cells, oligodendrocytes and glia. Bioinformatics analyses of predicted mRNA targets with negatively correlated expression patterns to miR-143 found that miR-143 likely regulates the Lmo4 gene, which is known to influence hippocampal-based spatial learning.
Keywords: Brain development; Medial entorhinal cortex; MiRNA; Stellate neurons.