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Transl Psychiatry. 2017 Aug 29;7(8):e1222. doi: 10.1038/tp.2017.185.

Decreased AGO2 and DCR1 in PBMCs from War Veterans with PTSD leads to diminished miRNA resulting in elevated inflammation.

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Department of Pathology, Microbiology and Immunology, University of South Carolina School of Medicine, Columbia, SC, USA.
William Jennings Bryan Dorn VA Medical Center, Columbia, SC, USA.
Division of Virology, USAMRIID, Fort Detrick, MD, USA.
Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Arnold School of Public Health, University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC, USA.


Chronic inflammation is a characteristic of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The initiation of inflammation and molecules involved are not yet clearly understood. Here, we provide compelling evidence that the inflammation seen in PTSD may result from the dysregulated miRNA processing pathway. Using microarray analysis with a discovery group of peripheral blood mononuclear cell (PBMC) samples from War Veterans with PTSD, we found 183 significantly downregulated miRNAs, several of which target numerous genes categorized to be pro-inflammatory in nature. This observation was further confirmed in a replicate group by including more samples. Furthermore, employing RNA-sequencing, quantitative real time PCR (qRT-PCR) and in vitro experiments, we found that Argonaute 2 (AGO2) and Dicer1 (DCR1) were downregulated in PTSD and provided convincing evidence that their downregulation affects mature miRNA generation. In addition, we noted that STAT3 transcript was reduced in PTSD and this was possibly responsible for reduced AGO2 and DCR1, which in turn affected miRNA synthesis. Furthermore, we observed that activation of CD4+ T cells or monocytes led to reduced mature miRNA availability. Finally, the inflammation seen in PTSD was associated with downregulated miRNA profile. Altogether, the current study demonstrates that the chronic inflammation seen in PTSD may be a result of dysregulated miRNA biogenesis pathway due to diminished expression of the key molecules like AGO2, DCR1 and STAT3.

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