Comparative Analysis of microRNAs that Stratify in vitro Mammary stem and Progenitor Activity Reveals Functionality of Human miR-92b-3p

J Mammary Gland Biol Neoplasia. 2022 Oct 3. doi: 10.1007/s10911-022-09525-7. Online ahead of print.


Mammary stem/progenitor cells are fundamental for mammary gland development and function. However, much remains to be elucidated regarding their function in mammals beyond the traditionally studied rodents, human, and to a lesser extent, ruminants. Due to the growing appreciation for microRNAs (miRNAs) as regulators of stem cells and their progenitors, we compared miRNA expression in mammary stem/progenitor cells from mammals with varying mammary stem/progenitor activity in vitro, in order to identify miRNA candidates that regulate stem/progenitor self-renewal and function. Mammosphere-derived epithelial cells (MDECs), which are primary cell lines enriched in mammary stem and progenitor cells, were generated from six mammalian species (i.e., cow, human, pig, horse, dog, and rat) and small RNA sequencing was performed. We identified 9 miRNAs that were significantly differentially expressed in MDEC cultures with a low versus high mammary stem/progenitor activity. miR-92b-3p was selected for functional follow-up studies, as this miRNA is understudied in primary mammary cells but has well-described gene targets that are known to regulate mammary stem/progenitor activity. Altering the expression of miR-92b-3p in MDECs from species with low stem/progenitor activity (human and cow) and those with high stem/progenitor activity (dog and rat) via inhibition and overexpression, respectively, resulted in significantly decreased mammosphere formation of human MDECs, but showed no significant effects in cow, dog, or rat MDECs. This study is the first to perform small RNA sequencing in MDECs from various mammals and highlights that conserved miRNAs can have different functions in mammary stem/progenitor cells across species.

Keywords: MDECs; Mammary stem/progenitor cells; miR-92b-3p; miRNA; small RNA-Seq.