Basal microRNA expression patterns in reward circuitry of selectively bred high-responder and low-responder rats vary by brain region and genotype

Hamilton DE, Cooke CL, Carter BS, Akil H, Watson SJ, Thompson RC
Physiol Genomics. 2014; 46(8):290-301.


Mental health disorders involving altered reward, emotionality, and anxiety are thought to result from the interaction of individual predisposition (genetic factors) and personal experience (environmental factors), although the mechanisms that contribute to an individual's vulnerability to these disorders remain poorly understood. We used an animal model of individual variation [inbred high-responder/low-responder (bHR-bLR) rodents] known to vary in reward, anxiety, and emotional processing to examine neuroanatomical expression patterns of microRNAs (miRNAs). Laser capture microdissection was used to dissect the prelimbic cortex and the nucleus accumbens core and shell prior to analysis of basal miRNA expression in bHR and bLR male rats. These studies identified 187 miRNAs differentially expressed by genotype in at least one brain region, 10 of which were validated by qPCR. Four of these 10 qPCR-validated miRNAs demonstrated differential expression across multiple brain regions, and all miRNAs with validated differential expression between genotypes had lower expression in bHR animals compared with bLR animals. microRNA (miR)-484 and miR-128a expression differences between the prelimbic cortex of bHR and bLR animals were validated by semiquantitative in situ hybridization. miRNA expression analysis independent of genotype identified 101 miRNAs differentially expressed by brain region, seven of which validated by qPCR. Dnmt3a mRNA, a validated target of miR-29b, varied in a direction opposite that of miR-29b's differential expression between bHR and bLR animals. These data provide evidence that basal central nervous system miRNA expression varies in the bHR-bLR model, implicating microRNAs as potential epigenetic regulators of key neural circuits and individual differences associated with mental health disorders.