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Differential blood miRNA expression in brain amyloid imaging-defined Alzheimer’s disease and controls

  • Wu, Helen Zong Ying1, 2
  • Thalamuthu, Anbupalam1, 2
  • Cheng, Lesley3
  • Fowler, Christopher4
  • Masters, Colin L.4
  • Sachdev, Perminder1, 5
  • Mather, Karen A.1, 2
  • 1 University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia , Sydney (Australia)
  • 2 Neuroscience Research Australia, Sydney, Australia , Sydney (Australia)
  • 3 La Trobe University, Bundoora, Victoria, Australia , Bundoora (Australia)
  • 4 University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia , Melbourne (Australia)
  • 5 Prince of Wales Hospital, Sydney, Australia , Sydney (Australia)
Published Article
Alzheimer's Research & Therapy
BioMed Central
Publication Date
May 15, 2020
DOI: 10.1186/s13195-020-00627-0
Springer Nature


BackgroundPeripheral blood microRNAs (miRNA) have been identified as potential biomarkers for Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Study results have generally been inconsistent and limited by sample heterogeneity. The aim of this study is to establish candidate blood miRNA biomarkers for AD by comparing differences in miRNA expression between participants with brain amyloid imaging-defined AD and normal cognition.MethodsBlood RNA was extracted from a subset of participants from the Australian Imaging Biomarkers Lifestyle Study of Ageing cohort (AIBL) with brain amyloid imaging results. MiRNA profiling was performed using small RNA sequencing on 71 participants, comprising 40 AD with high brain amyloid burden on imaging (amyloid positive) and 31 cognitively normal controls with low brain amyloid burden (amyloid negative). Cross-sectional comparisons were made between groups to examine differential miRNA expression levels using Fisher’s exact tests. Replication of results was undertaken using a publicly available dataset of blood miRNA data of AD and controls. In silico analysis of downstream messenger RNA targets of candidate miRNAs was performed to elucidate potential biological function.ResultsAfter quality control, 816 miRNAs were available for analysis. There were 71 significantly differentially expressed miRNAs between the AD and control groups (p < 0.05). Two of these miRNAs, miR-146b-5p and miR-15b-5p, were also significant in the replication cohort. Pathways analysis showed these miRNAs to be involved in innate immune system and regulation of the cell cycle, respectively, both of which have relevance to AD pathogenesis.ConclusionBlood miR-146b-5p and miR15b-5p showed consistent differential expression in AD compared to controls. Further replication and translational studies in strictly phenotyped cohorts are needed to establish their role as biomarkers for AD to have clinical utility.

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