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Mol Vis. 2006 Oct 17;12:1175-84.

MicroRNAs of the mammalian eye display distinct and overlapping tissue specificity.

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Department of Dermatology, The Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University, Chicago, IL 60611, USA.



In mammals, endogenous, noncoding RNAs, designated as microRNAs (miRNAs), inhibit the translation of a target messenger RNA, thereby silencing protein production. MiRNAs have been shown to regulate many aspects of development and differentiation in a wide range of tissues. Surprisingly, little consideration has been directed towards characterizing the expression of miRNAs in mammalian ocular tissues.


Low molecular weight (LMW) RNA isolated from the adult mouse corneal epithelium, lens/ciliary body, and a retina fractions of the eye was analyzed by miRNA arrays. The validity of the miRNA expression profiles were confirmed by northern blots and the tissue distribution of selected miRNAs was determined by in situ hybridization.


MiRNAs exhibited distinct tissue and cell-type specificity in the ocular regions studied. MiRNA (mir)-184 had the highest hybridization signal in the corneal and lens arrays. In situ hybridization analysis revealed that mir-184 was expressed in the basal and immediately suprabasal cells of the corneal epithelium. In contrast, expression of mir-205 was detected throughout the anterior segmental epithelia as well as in the epidermis. Within the lens, expression of mir-184 was more strongly expressed in the epithelial cells of the germinative zone, whereas expression of mir-204 was uniformly expressed in all lens epithelial cells. Mir-181, -182, and -183 were detected in retinal and brain tissues, and their distribution patterns within the retina were both distinct and overlapping.


The tissue and cell specificity of ocular miRNAs suggests that these noncoding RNAs may be regulating aspects of development and differentiation.

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