Biology open

MiR-153 targets the nuclear factor-1 family and protects against teratogenic effects of ethanol exposure in fetal neural stem cells.

PMID 25063196


Ethanol exposure during pregnancy is an established cause of birth defects, including neurodevelopmental defects. Most adult neurons are produced during the second trimester-equivalent period. The fetal neural stem cells (NSCs) that generate these neurons are an important but poorly understood target for teratogenesis. A cohort of miRNAs, including miR-153, may serve as mediators of teratogenesis. We previously showed that ethanol decreased, while nicotine increased miR-153 expression in NSCs. To understand the role of miR-153 in the etiology of teratology, we first screened fetal cortical NSCs cultured ex vivo, by microarray and quantitative RT-PCR analyses, to identify cell-signaling mRNAs and gene networks as important miR-153 targets. Moreover, miR-153 over-expression prevented neuronal differentiation without altering neuroepithelial cell survival or proliferation. Analysis of 3'UTRs and in utero over-expression of pre-miR-153 in fetal mouse brain identified Nfia (nuclear factor-1A) and its paralog, Nfib, as direct targets of miR-153. In utero ethanol exposure resulted in a predicted expansion of Nfia and Nfib expression in the fetal telencephalon. In turn, miR-153 over-expression prevented, and partly reversed, the effects of ethanol exposure on miR-153 target transcripts. Varenicline, a partial nicotinic acetylcholine receptor agonist that, like nicotine, induces miR-153 expression, also prevented and reversed the effects of ethanol exposure. These data collectively provide evidence for a role for miR-153 in preventing premature NSC differentiation. Moreover, they provide the first evidence in a preclinical model that direct or pharmacological manipulation of miRNAs have the potential to prevent or even reverse effects of a teratogen like ethanol on fetal development.