The auditory system comprises the auditory periphery, engaged in sound transduction and the central auditory system, implicated in auditory information processing and perception. Recently, evidence mounted that the mammalian peripheral and central auditory systems share a number of genes critical for proper development and function. This bears implication for auditory rehabilitation and evolution of the auditory system. To analyze to which extent microRNAs (miRNAs) belong to genes shared between both systems, we characterize the expression pattern of 12 cochlea-abundant miRNAs in the central auditory system. Quantitative real-time PCR (qRT-PCR) demonstrated expression of all 12 genes in the cochlea, the auditory hindbrain and the non-auditory prefrontal cortex (PFC) at embryonic stage (E)16 and postnatal stages (P)0 and P30. Eleven of them showed differences in expression between tissues and nine between the developmental time points. Hierarchical cluster analysis revealed that the temporal expression pattern in the auditory hindbrain was more similar to the PFC than to the cochlea. Spatiotemporal expression analysis by RNA in situ hybridization demonstrated widespread expression throughout the cochlear nucleus complex (CNC) and the superior olivary complex (SOC) during postnatal development. Altogether, our data indicate that miRNAs represent a relevant class of genetic factors functioning across the auditory system. Given the importance of gene regulatory network (GRN) components for development, physiology and evolution, the 12 miRNAs provide promising entry points to gain insights into their molecular underpinnings in the auditory system.
Keywords: Auditory rehabilitation; Auditory system; Development; Evolution; Gene regulatory network.