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PLoS genetics

bacterial infection drives the expression dynamics of microRNAs and their isomiRs.


PMID 25793259

Abstract

The optimal coordination of the transcriptional response of host cells to infection is essential for establishing appropriate immunological outcomes. In this context, the role of microRNAs (miRNAs)--important epigenetic regulators of gene expression--in regulating mammalian immune systems is increasingly well recognised. However, the expression dynamics of miRNAs, and that of their isoforms, in response to infection remains largely unexplored. Here, we characterized the genome-wide miRNA transcriptional responses of human dendritic cells, over time, to various mycobacteria differing in their virulence as well as to other bacteria outside the genus Mycobacterium, using small RNA-sequencing. We detected the presence of a core temporal response to infection, shared across bacteria, comprising 49 miRNAs, highlighting a set of miRNAs that may play an essential role in the regulation of basic cellular responses to stress. Despite such broadly shared expression dynamics, we identified specific elements of variation in the miRNA response to infection across bacteria, including a virulence-dependent induction of the miR-132/212 family in response to mycobacterial infections. We also found that infection has a strong impact on both the relative abundance of the miRNA hairpin arms and the expression dynamics of miRNA isoforms. That we observed broadly consistent changes in relative arm expression and isomiR distribution across bacteria suggests that this additional, internal layer of variability in miRNA responses represents an additional source of subtle miRNA-mediated regulation upon infection. Collectively, this study increases our understanding of the dynamism and role of miRNAs in response to bacterial infection, revealing novel features of their internal variability and identifying candidate miRNAs that may contribute to differences in the pathogenicity of mycobacterial infections.