MicroRNA and mRNA expression associated with ectopic germinal centers in thymus of myasthenia gravis

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Journal Article

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© 2018 Sengupta et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited. Background A characteristic pathology of early onset myasthenia gravis is thymic hyperplasia with ectopic germinal centers (GC). However, the mechanisms that trigger and maintain thymic hyperplasia are poorly characterized. Dysregulation of small, non-coding microRNAs (miRNAs) and their target genes has been identified in the pathology of several autoimmune diseases. We assessed the miRNA and mRNA profiles of the MG thymus and have investigated their role in GC formation and maintenance. Methods MG thymus samples were assessed by histology and grouped based upon the appearance of GC; GC positive and GC negative. A systems biology approach was used to study the differences between the groups. Our study included miRNA and mRNA profiling, quantitative real-time PCR validation, miRNA target identification, pathway analysis, miRNA-mRNA reciprocal expression pairing and interaction. Results Thirty-eight mature miRNAs and forty-six annotated mRNA transcripts were differentially expressed between the two groups (>1.5 fold change, ANOVA p<0.05). The miRNAs were found to be involved in immune response pathways and identified in other autoimmune diseases. The cellular and molecular functions of the mRNAs showed involvement in cell death and cell survival, cellular proliferation, cytokine signaling and extra-cellular matrix reorganization. Eleven miRNA and mRNA pairs were reciprocally regulated. The Regulator of G protein Signalling 13 (RGS13), known to be involved in GC regulation, was identified in specimens with GC and was paired with downregulation of miR-452-5p and miR-139-5p. MiRNA target sites were validated by dual luciferase assay. Transfection of miRNA mimics led to down regulation of RGS13 expression in Raji cells. Conclusion Our study indicates a distinct miRNA and mRNA expression pattern in ectopic GC in MG thymus. These miRNAs and mRNAs are involved in regulatory pathways common to inflammation and immune response, cell cycle regulation and anti-apoptotic pathways suggesting their involvement in support of GC formation in the thymus. We demonstrate for the first time that miR-139-5p and miR-452-5p negatively regulate RGS13 expression.

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