White matter lesions known as leukoaraiosis (LA) are cerebral white matter hyperintensities observed in elderly individuals. Currently, no reliable molecular biomarkers are available for monitoring their progression over time. To identify biomarkers for the onset and progression of LA, we analyzed whole blood-based, microRNA expression profiles of leukoaraiosis, validated those exhibiting significant microRNA changes in clinical subjects by means of quantitative real-time polymerase chain reactions and determined the function of miRNA in cell lines by means of microRNA mimic transfection assays. A total of seven microRNAs were found to be significantly down-regulated in leukoaraiosis. Among the microRNAs, hsa-miR-1972 was downregulated during the early onset phase of leukoaraiosis, as confirmed in independent patients, and it was found to target leukoaraiosis-dependent BAIAP3, decreasing its expression in 293T cell lines. Functional enrichment analysis revealed that significantly dysregulated miRNAs-mRNAs changes associated with the onset of leukoaraiosis were involved in neurogenesis, neuronal development, and differentiation. Taken together, the study identified a set of candidate microRNA biomarkers that may usefully monitor the onset and progression of leukoaraiosis. Given the enrichment of leukoaraiosis-associated microRNAs and mRNAs in neuron part and membrane system, BAIAP3 could potentially represent a novel target of hsa-miR-1972 in leukoaraiosis through which microRNAs are involved in the pathogenesis of white matter lesions.
Keywords: BAIAP3; biomarkers; leukoaraiosis (LA); microRNA (miRNA); white matter lesions (WMLs).