miR-124 regulates early isolation-induced social abnormalities via inhibiting myelinogenesis in the medial prefrontal cortex

Cell Mol Life Sci. 2022 Sep 4;79(9):507. doi: 10.1007/s00018-022-04533-6.


Patients with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) typically experience substantial social isolation, which may cause secondary adverse effects on their brain development. miR-124 is the most abundant miRNA in the human brain, acting as a pivotal molecule regulating neuronal fate determination. Alterations of miR-124 maturation or expression are observed in various neurodevelopmental, neuropsychiatric, and neurodegenerative disorders. In the present study, we analyzed a panel of brain-enriched microRNAs in serums from 2 to 6 year old boys diagnosed with ASD. The hsa-miR-124 level was found significantly elevated in ASD boys than in age and sex-matched healthy controls. In an isolation-reared weanling mouse model, we evidenced elevated mmu-miR-124 level in the serum and the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC). These mice displayed significant sociability deficits, as well as myelin abnormality in the mPFC, which was partially rescued by expressing the miR-124 sponge in the bilateral mPFC, ubiquitously or specifically in oligodendroglia. In cultured mouse oligodendrocyte precursor cells, introducing a synthetic mmu-miR-124 inhibited the differentiation process through suppressing expression of nuclear receptor subfamily 4 group A member 1 (Nr4a1). Overexpressing Nr4a1 in the bilateral mPFC also corrected the social behavioral deficits and myelin impairments in the isolation-reared mice. This study revealed an unanticipated role of the miR-124/Nr4a1 signaling in regulating early social experience-dependent mPFC myelination, which may serve as a potential therapy target for social neglect or social isolation-related neuropsychiatric disorders.

Keywords: FISH; Myelin plasticity; Oligodendrocytes; Social behavior; microRNA.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder* / genetics
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder* / metabolism
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mice
  • MicroRNAs* / metabolism
  • Myelin Sheath / genetics
  • Myelin Sheath / metabolism
  • Prefrontal Cortex / metabolism


  • MIRN124 microRNA, human
  • MicroRNAs
  • Mirn124 microRNA, mouse