The present study analyzes by RT-qPCR the expression of microRNA (miRNA)-27a-3p, miRNA-124-3p, miRNA-132-3p, and miRNA-143-3p in the locus coeruleus (LC), entorhinal cortex (EC), CA1 region of the hippocampus (CA1), and dentate gyrus (DG) of middle-aged (MA) individuals with no brain lesions and of cases at Braak and Braak stages I-II and II-IV of neurofibrillary tangle (NFT) pathology. The most affected region is the LC in which miRNA-27a-3p, miRNA-124-3p, and miRNA-143-3p show a trend to increase at stages I-II and are significantly up-regulated at stages III-IV when compared with MA. Only miRNA-143-3p is up-regulated in the EC at stages III-IV when compared with MA and with stages I-II. No modifications in the expression levels of miRNA-27a-3p, miRNA-124-3p, miRNA-132-3p, and miRNA-143-3p are found in CA1 at any stage, whereas miRNA-124-3p is significantly down-regulated in DG at stages I-II. Accompanying in situ hybridization reveals miRNA-27a-3p, miRNA-124-3p, and miRNA-143-3 localization in neurons, indicating that changes in miRNA expression are not a direct effect of changes in the numbers of neurons and glial cells. Present observations show for the first time important miRNA de-regulation in the LC at the first stages of NFT. Since the LC is the main noradrenergic input to the cerebral cortex, key regulator of mood and depression, and one of the first nuclei affected in aging and Alzheimer's disease (AD), these findings provide insights for additional study of the LC in aging and AD.
Keywords: Alzheimer disease; Entorhinal cortex; Hippocampus; Locus coeruleus; MicroRNA; Neurofibrillary tangle pathology.