NF-κB-regulated microRNA-574-5p underlies synaptic and cognitive impairment in response to atmospheric PM2.5 aspiration

Part Fibre Toxicol. 2017 Aug 29;14(1):34. doi: 10.1186/s12989-017-0215-3.


Background: PM2.5 (particulate matter ≤ 2.5 μm) is one of the leading environmental risk factors for the global burden of disease. Whereas increasing evidence has linked the adverse roles of PM2.5 with cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, limited but growing emerging evidence suggests that PM2.5 exposure can affect the nervous system, causing neuroinflammation, synaptic dysfunction and cognitive deterioration. However, the molecular mechanisms underlying the synaptic and cognitive deficits elicited by PM2.5 exposure are largely unknown.

Methods: C57BL/6 mice received oropharyngeal aspiration of PM2.5 (1 and 5 mg/kg bw) every other day for 4 weeks. The mice were also stereotaxically injected with β-site amyloid precursor protein cleaving enzyme 1 (β-secretase, BACE1) shRNA or LV-miR-574-5p lentiviral constructs in the absence or presence of PM2.5 aspiration at 5 mg/kg bw every other day for 4 weeks. Spatial learning and memory were assessed with the Morris water maze test, and synaptic function integrity was evaluated with electrophysiological recordings of long-term potentiation (LTP) and immunoblot analyses of glutamate receptor subunit expression. The expression of α-secretase (ADAM10), BACE1, and γ-secretase (nicastrin) and the synthesis and accumulation of amyloid β (Aβ) were measured by immunoblot and enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA). MicroRNA (miRNA) expression was screened with a microRNA microarray analysis and confirmed by real-time quantitative reverse transcription PCR (qRT-PCR) analysis. Dual-luciferase reporter gene and chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP) analyses were used to detect the binding of miR-574-5p in the 3'UTR of BACE1 and NF-κB p65 in the promoter of miR-574-5p, respectively.

Results: PM2.5 aspiration caused neuroinflammation and deteriorated synaptic function integrity and spatial learning and memory, and the effects were associated with the induction of BACE1. The action was mediated by NF-κB p65-regulated downregulation of miR-574-5p, which targets BACE1. Overexpression of miR-574-5p in the hippocampal region decreased BACE1 expression, restored synaptic function, and improved spatial memory and learning following PM2.5 exposure.

Conclusions: Taken together, our findings reveal a novel molecular mechanism underlying impaired synaptic and cognitive function following exposure to PM2.5, suggesting that miR-574-5p is a potential intervention target for the prevention and treatment of PM2.5-induced neurological disorders.

Keywords: MicroRNA-574-5p (miR-574-5p); NF-κB; PM2.5; Spatial memory and learning; Synaptic dysfunction; β-site amyloid precursor protein cleaving enzyme 1 (β-secretase, BACE1).

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Air Pollutants / toxicity*
  • Animals
  • Cognitive Dysfunction / chemically induced*
  • Cognitive Dysfunction / genetics
  • Cognitive Dysfunction / metabolism
  • Gene Expression Regulation / drug effects
  • Hippocampus / drug effects
  • Hippocampus / metabolism
  • Inhalation Exposure / analysis
  • Maze Learning / drug effects
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • MicroRNAs / genetics
  • MicroRNAs / metabolism*
  • NF-kappa B / metabolism*
  • Particle Size
  • Particulate Matter / toxicity*
  • Spatial Memory / drug effects
  • Synaptic Potentials / drug effects*


  • Air Pollutants
  • MIRN574 microRNA, mouse
  • MicroRNAs
  • NF-kappa B
  • Particulate Matter