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PLoS One. 2012;7(4):e34688. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0034688. Epub 2012 Apr 18.

The expression of microRNA and microRNA clusters in the aging heart.

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Donald W. Reynolds Department of Geriatrics, The University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences and Geriatric Research, Education and Clinical Center, Central Arkansas Veterans Healthcare System, Little Rock, Arkansas, United States of America.



The microRNAs have been implicated in the process of cardiac development, cardiac hypertrophy, and heart failure. However, the impact of adult aging on cardiac expression of miRNA clusters, as well as both miRNA guide (miR) and passenger (miR*) strands has not been well established.


We explored the expression profile of both miR and miR* in the hearts of young adult versus old mice. We found that 65 miRNAs were differentially expressed in the old versus young adult hearts; approximately half of them were clustered miRNAs that were distributed in 11 miRNA clusters. Each miRNA cluster contained from 2 to as many as 71 miRNA genes. The majority of the clusters displayed similar expression, with most cluster members within a cluster being either increased or decreased together, suggesting that most clusters are likely to be regulated by a common signaling mechanism and that the combined expression of multiple miRNA genes in a cluster could pose an impact on a broad range of targets during aging. We also found age-related changes in the expression of miR*s. The expression of both miR and miR* correlated with that of pri-miRNA transcript over the time course from development and maturation through adult aging. Age-related changes in the expression of Ago1 and Ago2 proteins in the heart were also observed. Transfection assay revealed that both Ago1 and Ago2 synergistically induced miR-21 and miR-21* when the mir-21 plasmid was co-transfected with either.


The data revealed age-related changes in the expression of pri-miRNA transcript, Argonaut proteins and both miR and miR* strands. The major changes occurred later in life, from middle to old age. It is likely that the expression of miR and miR* is regulated by both pri-miRNA transcription as well as Ago1 and Ago2 proteins during adult aging.

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