Regulation of microRNA during cardiomyocyte maturation in sheep.
BACKGROUND: There is a limited capacity to repair damage in the mammalian heart after birth, which is primarily due to the inability of cardiomyocytes to proliferate after birth. This is in contrast to zebrafish and salamander, in which cardiomyocytes retain the ability to proliferate throughout life and can regenerate their heart after significant damage. Recent studies in zebrafish and rodents implicate microRNA (miRNA) in the regulation of genes responsible for cardiac cell cycle progression and regeneration, in particular, miR-133a, the miR-15 family, miR-199a and miR-590. However, the significance of these miRNA and miRNA in general in the regulation of cardiomyocyte proliferation in large mammals, including humans, where the timing of heart development relative to birth is very different than in rodents, is unclear. To determine the involvement of miRNA in the down-regulation of cardiomyocyte proliferation occurring before birth in large mammals, we investigated miRNA and target gene expression in sheep hearts before and after birth. The experimental approach included targeted transcriptional profiling of miRNA and target mRNA previously identified in rodent studies as well as genome-wide miRNA profiling using microarrays. RESULTS: The cardiac expression of miR-133a increased and its target gene IGF1R decreased with increasing age, reaching their respective maximum and minimum abundance when the majority of ovine cardiomyocytes were quiescent. The expression of the miR-15 family members was variable with age, however, four of their target genes decreased with age. These latter profiles are inconsistent with the direct involvement of this family of miRNA in cardiomyocyte quiescence in late gestation sheep. The expression patterns of 'pro-proliferative' miR-199a and miR-590 were also inconsistent with their involvement in cardiomyocyte quiescence. Consequently, miRNA microarray analysis was undertaken, which identified six discrete clusters of miRNA with characteristic developmental profiles. The functions of predicted target genes for the miRNA in four of the six clusters were enriched for aspects of cell division and regulation of cell proliferation suggesting a potential role of these miRNA in regulating cardiomyocyte proliferation. CONCLUSION: The results of this study show that the expression of miR-133a and one of its target genes is consistent with it being involved in the suppression of cardiomyocyte proliferation, which occurs across the last third of gestation in sheep. The expression patterns of the miR-15 family, miR-199a and miR-590 were inconsistent with direct involvement in the regulation cardiomyocyte proliferation in sheep, despite studies in rodents demonstrating that their manipulation can influence the degree of cardiomyocyte proliferation. miRNA microarray analysis suggests a coordinated and potentially more complex role of multiple miRNA in the regulation of cardiomyocyte quiescence and highlights significant differences between species that may reflect their substantial differences in the timing of this developmental process.