Distribution of microRNA profiles in pre-clinical and clinical forms of murine and human prion disease

Commun Biol. 2021 Mar 25;4(1):411. doi: 10.1038/s42003-021-01868-x.


Prion diseases are distinguished by long pre-clinical incubation periods during which prions actively propagate in the brain and cause neurodegeneration. In the pre-clinical stage, we hypothesize that upon prion infection, transcriptional changes occur that can lead to early neurodegeneration. A longitudinal analysis of miRNAs in pre-clinical and clinical forms of murine prion disease demonstrated dynamic expression changes during disease progression in the affected thalamus region and serum. Serum samples at each timepoint were collected whereby extracellular vesicles (EVs) were isolated and used to identify blood-based biomarkers reflective of pathology in the brain. Differentially expressed EV miRNAs were validated in human clinical samples from patients with human sporadic Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (sCJD), with the molecular subtype at codon 129 either methionine-methionine (MM, n = 14) or valine-valine (VV, n = 12) compared to controls (n = 20). EV miRNA biomarkers associated with prion infection predicted sCJD with an AUC of 0.800 (85% sensitivity and 66.7% specificity) in a second independent validation cohort (n = 26) of sCJD and control patients with MM or VV subtype. This study discovered clinically relevant miRNAs that benefit diagnostic development to detect prion-related diseases and therapeutic development to inhibit prion infectivity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Animals
  • Biomarkers / blood
  • Brain / pathology*
  • Creutzfeldt-Jakob Syndrome / blood
  • Creutzfeldt-Jakob Syndrome / etiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred BALB C
  • MicroRNAs / analysis*
  • MicroRNAs / blood
  • Middle Aged
  • Prion Diseases / blood
  • Prion Diseases / etiology*


  • Biomarkers
  • MicroRNAs

Supplementary concepts

  • Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease, Sporadic