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This article has been peer reviewed. It was published in: PLoS ONE.
Volume 10, Issue 9, 11 September 2015, Article number e0137432.
The published version is available at DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0137432

Copyright © 2015 Kong et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited


Parkinson's disease (PD) is a prevalent neurodegenerative disorder with pathological features including death of dopaminergic neurons in the substantia nigra and intraneuronal accumulations of Lewy bodies. As the main component of Lewy bodies, α-synuclein is implicated in PD pathogenesis by aggregation into insoluble filaments. However, the detailed mechanisms underlying α-synuclein induced neurotoxicity in PD are still elusive. MicroRNAs are ~20nt small RNA molecules that fine-tune gene expression at posttranscriptional level. A plethora of miRNAs have been found to be dysregulated in the brain and blood cells of PD patients. Nevertheless, the detailed mechanisms and their in vivo functions in PD still need further investigation. By using Drosophila PD model expressing α-synuclein A30P, we examined brain miRNA expression with high-throughput small RNA sequencing technology. We found that five miRNAs (dme-miR-133-3p, dme-miR-137-3p, dme-miR-13b-3p, dme-miR-932-5p, dme-miR-1008-5p) were upregulated in PD flies. Among them, miR-13b, miR-133, miR-137 are brain enriched and highly conserved from Drosophila to humans. KEGG pathway analysis using DIANA miR-Path demonstrated that neuroactive-ligand receptor interaction pathway was most likely affected by these miRNAs. Interestingly, miR-137 was predicted to regulate most of the identified targets in this pathway, including dopamine receptor (DopR, D2R), γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA) receptor (GABA-B-R1, GABA-B-R3) and N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor (Nmdar2). The validation experiments showed that the expression of miR-137 and its targets was negatively correlated in PD flies. Further experiments using luciferase reporter assay confirmed that miR-137 could act on specific sites in 3' UTR region of D2R, Nmdar2 and GABA-B-R3, which downregulated significantly in PD flies. Collectively, our findings indicate that α-synuclein could induce the dysregulation of miRNAs, which target neuroactive ligand-receptor interaction pathway in vivo. We believe it will help us further understand the contribution of miRNAs to α-synuclein neurotoxicity and provide new insights into the pathogenesis driving PD.