MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are small non-coding RNAs that function through the RNA interference (RNAi) pathway and post-transcriptionally regulate gene expression in eukaryotic organisms. While miRNAs are known to affect cellular proliferation, differentiation, and morphological development, neither their expression nor roles in mammalian inner ear development have been characterized. We have investigated the extent of miRNA expression at various time points throughout maturation of the postnatal mouse inner ear by microarray analysis. Approximately one third of known miRNAs are detected in the inner ear, and their expression persists to adulthood. Expression of such miRNAs is validated by quantitative PCR and northern blot analysis. Further analysis by in situ hybridization demonstrates that certain miRNAs exhibit cell-specific expression patterns in the mouse inner ear. Notably, we demonstrate that miRNAs previously associated with mechanosensory cells in zebrafish are also expressed in hair cells of the auditory and vestibular endorgans. Our results demonstrate that miRNA expression is abundant in the mammalian inner ear and that certain miRNAs are evolutionarily associated with mechanosensory cell development and/or function. The data suggest that miRNAs contribute substantially to genetic programs intrinsic to development and function of the mammalian inner ear and that specific miRNAs might influence formation of sensory epithelia from the primitive otic neuroepithelium.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Molecular Biology
- Clinical Neurology
- Developmental Biology