MicroRNA Expression Patterns in Human Astrocytes in Relation to Anatomical Location and Age

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Anatomic distribution and age are variables linked to functions of astrocytes under physiologic and pathologic conditions. We measured the relative expression of a panel of microRNAs (miRNAs) in astrocytes captured by laser micro-dissection from normal human adult white and grey matter, human fetal white matter and germinal matrix samples. Although expression of most miRNAs was comparable between adult and fetal samples, regional differences were observed. In the adult cerebral cortex, expression of miRNAs in morphologically distinct inter-laminar astrocytes underlying the glial limitans differed from those in deeper cortical layers, suggesting functional specialization possibly related to structural stability and defense from potentially harmful factors in the cerebrospinal fluid. Differences between adult white and grey matter miRNA expression included higher expression of pro-inflammatory miRNAs in the former, potentially contributing to differences in inflammation between grey and white matter plaques in multiple sclerosis. Lower expression of miRNAs in fetal versus adult white matter astrocytes likely reflects the immaturity of these migrating cells. Highly expressed miRNAs in the fetal germinal matrix are probably relevant in development and also recapitulate some responses to injury. Future studies can address regional alterations of miRNA expression in pathological conditions.

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