Human molecular genetics

Cis-acting single nucleotide polymorphisms alter MicroRNA-mediated regulation of human brain-expressed transcripts.

PMID 28171541


Substantial variability exists in the presentation of complex neurological disorders, and the study of single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) has shed light on disease mechanisms and pathophysiological variability in some cases. However, the vast majority of disease-linked SNPs have unidentified pathophysiological relevance. Here, we tested the hypothesis that SNPs within the miRNA recognition element (MRE; the region of the target transcript to which the miRNA binds) can impart changes in the expression of those genes, either by enhancing or reducing transcript and protein levels. To test this, we cross-referenced 7,153 miRNA-MRE brain interactions with the SNP database (dbSNP) to identify candidates, and functionally assessed 24 SNPs located in the 3’UTR or the coding sequence (CDS) of targets. For over half of the candidates tested, SNPs either enhanced (4 genes) or disrupted (10 genes) miRNA binding and target regulation. Additionally, SNPs causing a shift from a common to rare codon within the CDS facilitated miRNA binding downstream of the SNP, dramatically repressing target gene expression. The biological activity of the SNPs on miRNA regulation was also confirmed in induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC) lines. These studies strongly support the notion that SNPs in the 3’UTR or the coding sequence of disease-relevant genes may be important in disease pathogenesis and should be reconsidered as candidate modifiers.