MicroRNA signatures of endogenous Huntingtin CAG repeat expansion in mice

PLoS One. 2018 Jan 11;13(1):e0190550. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0190550. eCollection 2018.


In Huntington's disease (HD) patients and in model organisms, messenger RNA transcriptome has been extensively studied; in contrast, comparatively little is known about expression and potential role of microRNAs. Using RNA-sequencing, we have quantified microRNA expression in four brain regions and liver, at three different ages, from an allelic series of HD model mice with increasing CAG length in the endogenous Huntingtin gene. Our analyses reveal CAG length-dependent microRNA expression changes in brain, with 159 microRNAs selectively altered in striatum, 102 in cerebellum, 51 in hippocampus, and 45 in cortex. In contrast, a progressive CAG length-dependent microRNA dysregulation was not observed in liver. We further identify microRNAs whose transcriptomic response to CAG length expansion differs significantly among the brain regions and validate our findings in data from a second, independent cohort of mice. Using existing mRNA expression data from the same animals, we assess the possible relationships between microRNA and mRNA expression and highlight candidate microRNAs that are negatively correlated with, and whose predicted targets are enriched in, CAG-length dependent mRNA modules. Several of our top microRNAs (Mir212/Mir132, Mir218, Mir128 and others) have been previously associated with aspects of neuronal development and survival. This study provides an extensive resource for CAG length-dependent changes in microRNA expression in disease-vulnerable and -resistant brain regions in HD mice, and provides new insights for further investigation of microRNAs in HD pathogenesis and therapeutics.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Validation Study

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Huntingtin Protein / genetics*
  • Huntington Disease / genetics*
  • Mice
  • MicroRNAs / genetics*
  • Transcriptome
  • Trinucleotide Repeats*


  • HTT protein, human
  • Huntingtin Protein
  • MicroRNAs

Grants and funding

CHDI Foundation is a privately-funded nonprofit biomedical research organization exclusively dedicated to developing therapeutics that substantially improve the lives of individuals with Huntington’s disease. CHDI Foundation conducts research in a number of different ways; for the purposes of this manuscript, work was conducted at UCLA under a sponsored research agreement. The authors listed all contributed to the conception, planning, and direction of the research, including generation, analysis, and interpretation of the data.