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Front Genet. 2013 Jan 17;3:323. doi: 10.3389/fgene.2012.00323. eCollection 2012.

Functional microRNAs in Alzheimer's disease and cancer: differential regulation of common mechanisms and pathways.

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Department of Medical and Molecular Genetics, Indiana University School of Medicine Indianapolis, IN, USA.


Two of the main research priorities in the United States are cancer and neurodegenerative diseases, which are attributed to abnormal patterns of cellular behavior. MicroRNAs (miRNA) have been implicated as regulators of cellular metabolism, and thus are an active topic of investigation in both disease areas. There is presently a more extensive body of work on the role of miRNAs in cancer compared to neurodegenerative diseases, and therefore it may be useful to examine whether there is any concordance between the functional roles of miRNAs in these diseases. As a case study, the roles of miRNAs in Alzheimer's disease (AD) and their functions in various cancers will be compared. A number of miRNA expression patterns are altered in individuals with AD compared with healthy older adults. Among these, some have also been shown to correlate with neuropathological changes including plaque and tangle accumulation, as well as expression levels of other molecules known to be involved in disease pathology. Importantly, these miRNAs have also been shown to have differential expression and or functional roles in various types of cancer. To examine possible intersections between miRNA functions in cancer and AD, we review the current literature on these miRNAs in cancer and AD, focusing on their roles in known biological pathways. We propose a pathway-driven model in which some molecular processes show an inverse relationship between cancer and neurodegenerative disease (e.g., proliferation and apoptosis) whereas others are more parallel in their activity (e.g., immune activation and inflammation). A critical review of these and other molecular mechanisms in cancer may shed light on the pathophysiology of AD, and highlight key areas for future research. Conclusions from this work may be extended to other neurodegenerative diseases for which some molecular pathways have been identified but which have not yet been extensively researched for miRNA involvement.


Alzheimer’s disease; cancer; microRNA; pathways

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