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Genome-wide integration of microRNA and transcriptomic profiles of differentiating human alveolar epithelial cells.

American journal of physiology. Lung cellular and molecular physiology (2020-05-21)
Alessandra Castaldi, Masafumi Horie, Megan E Rieger, Mickael Dubourd, Mitsuhiro Sunohara, Kusum Pandit, Beiyun Zhou, Ite A Offringa, Crystal N Marconett, Zea Borok
ABSTRACT

The alveolar epithelium is comprised of two cell types, alveolar epithelial type 1 (AT1) and type 2 (AT2) cells, the latter being capable of self-renewal and transdifferentiation into AT1 cells for normal maintenance and restoration of epithelial integrity following injury. MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are critical regulators of several biological processes, including cell differentiation; however, their role in establishment/maintenance of cellular identity in adult alveolar epithelium is not well understood. To investigate this question, we performed genome-wide analysis of sequential changes in miRNA and gene expression profiles using a well-established model in which human AT2 (hAT2) cells transdifferentiate into AT1-like cells over time in culture that recapitulates many aspects of transdifferentiation in vivo. We defined three phases of miRNA expression during the transdifferentiation process as "early," "late," and "consistently" changed, which were further subclassified as up- or downregulated. miRNAs with altered expression at all time points during transdifferentiation were the largest subgroup, suggesting the need for consistent regulation of signaling pathways to mediate this process. Target prediction analysis and integration with previously published gene expression data identified glucocorticoid signaling as the top pathway regulated by miRNAs. Serum/glucocorticoid-regulated kinase 1 (SGK1) emerged as a central regulatory factor, whose downregulation correlated temporally with gain of hsa-miR-424 and hsa-miR-503 expression. Functional validation demonstrated specific targeting of these miRNAs to the 3'-untranslated region of SGK1. These data demonstrate the time-related contribution of miRNAs to the alveolar transdifferentiation process and suggest that inhibition of glucocorticoid signaling is necessary to achieve the AT1-like cell phenotype.

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Dulbecco′s Modified Eagle′s Medium/Nutrient Mixture F-12 Ham, With 15 mM HEPES and sodium bicarbonate, without L-glutamine, liquid, sterile-filtered, suitable for cell culture