The Emerging Role of MicroRNA in Schizophrenia
MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are ~22 nucleotide non-coding RNAs that control gene
expression post-transcriptionally by base pairing to mRNAs. MiRNAs are predicted to target ~50%
of all protein-coding genes and functional studies indicate that they participate in the regulation of
almost every cellular process. They also play a key role in pathogenetic mechanisms underlying
several diseases, e.g. cancer, cardiovascular diseases, autoimmune diseases, and neurodegenerative
diseases. Several miRNAs are expressed in the human brain where they contribute to equilibrium
between maintenance and differentiation of neural stem cells. MiRNAs specific mechanisms of
action and their roles in brain development and synaptic plasticity resulted in a great interest in the
analysis of their potential role in the pathogenesis and pathophysiology of neuropsychiatric
disorders. Currently, schizophrenia is one of the fields in psychiatry where miRNAs have been most widely investigated.
The understanding of miRNAs role in schizophrenia has been achieved through association, functional and expression
profiling studies on post mortem brain and peripheral tissues. Several studies identified association between
neuropsychiatric disorders and variants in miRNAs including variations in miRNA/primary-/precursor-miRNAs
sequences, in miRNAs biogenesis machinery genes, in the 3’UTR of target genes and in miRNAs expression. In
summary, there is growing evidence that miRNAs exert a crucial role in gene expression regulation in the central nervous
system and are altered in the development, presentation and response to treatment of psychiatric disorders. In this review
we summarize the most significant results of experimental studies aimed at highlighting the involvement of human
miRNAs in schizophrenia.
Keywords: Gene expression, microRNA, neuropsychiatric disorder, schizophrenia.
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