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Environ Sci Technol. 2013 Jul 2;47(13):7466-74. doi: 10.1021/es400615q. Epub 2013 Jun 19.

Copper-induced deregulation of microRNA expression in the zebrafish olfactory system.

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Department of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington, United States.


Although environmental trace metals, such as copper (Cu), can disrupt normal olfactory function in fish, the underlying molecular mechanisms of metal-induced olfactory injury have not been elucidated. Current research has suggested the involvement of epigenetic modifications. To address this hypothesis, we analyzed microRNA (miRNA) profiles in the olfactory system of Cu-exposed zebrafish. Our data revealed 2, 10, and 28 differentially expressed miRNAs in a dose-response manner corresponding to three increasing Cu concentrations. Numerous deregulated miRNAs were involved in neurogenesis (e.g., let-7, miR-7a, miR-128, and miR-138), indicating a role for Cu-mediated toxicity via interference with neurogenesis processes. Putative gene targets of deregulated miRNAs were identified when interrogating our previously published microarray database, including those involved in cell growth and proliferation, cell death, and cell morphology. Moreover, several miRNAs (e.g., miR-203a, miR-199*, miR-16a, miR-16c, and miR-25) may contribute to decreased mRNA levels of their host genes involved in olfactory signal transduction pathways and other critical neurological processes via a post-transcriptional mechanism. Our findings provide novel insight into the epigenetic regulatory mechanisms of metal-induced neurotoxicity of the fish olfactory system and identify novel miRNA biomarkers of metal exposures.

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