Circulating microRNAs as potential biomarkers for psychiatric and neurodegenerative disorders

Prog Neurobiol. 2020 Feb;185:101732. doi: 10.1016/j.pneurobio.2019.101732. Epub 2019 Dec 7.


Circulating microRNAs (cimiRNAs) are a class of non-encoding RNAs found in bodily fluids such as blood, cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) and tears. CimiRNAs have been implicated as promising biomarkers for central nervous system (CNS) disorders because they are actively secreted as messengers and are profoundly involved in fine-tuning of developmental and differentiation processes. Furthermore, they are attractive biomarkers because they are extremely stable, tissue enriched and can be determined in a quantitative manner. This review aims to provide a comprehensive assessment on the current progress regarding the potential value of cimiRNAs as CNS biomarkers. Within this framework five CNS disorders are explored which share a common pathological hallmark namely cognitive impairment. The CNS disorders include Major depression disorder (MDD), Bipolar disorder (BD), Schizophrenia (SZ), Alzheimer's disease (AD) and Parkinson disease (PD). The similarities and differences between altered cimiRNAs in the different disorders are described. The miR-29 family, miR-34a-5p and miR-132-3p are discussed as common dysregulated cimiRNAs found in the CNS disorders. Furthermore, it is shown that the type of bodily fluid used for measuring cimiRNAs is important as inconsistencies in cimiRNAs expression directions are found when comparing CSF, blood cell-free and blood cell-bound samples.

Keywords: Biomarkers; CNS disorders; Circulating miRNAs; Cognitive impairment; Next generation sequencing.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Alzheimer Disease / blood
  • Alzheimer Disease / diagnosis
  • Biomarkers / blood*
  • Central Nervous System Diseases / blood
  • Central Nervous System Diseases / diagnosis
  • Circulating MicroRNA / blood*
  • Humans
  • MicroRNAs / blood*
  • Neurodegenerative Diseases / blood*
  • Neurodegenerative Diseases / diagnosis


  • Biomarkers
  • Circulating MicroRNA
  • MicroRNAs