MeCP2-regulated miRNAs control early human neurogenesis through differential effects on ERK and AKT signaling

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Rett syndrome (RTT) is an X-linked, neurodevelopmental disorder caused primarily by mutations in the methyl-CpG-binding protein 2 (MECP2) gene, which encodes a multifunctional epigenetic regulator with known links to a wide spectrum of neuropsychiatric disorders. Although postnatal functions of MeCP2 have been thoroughly investigated, its role in prenatal brain development remains poorly understood. Given the well-established importance of microRNAs (miRNAs) in neurogenesis, we employed isogenic human RTT patient-derived induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC) and MeCP2 short hairpin RNA knockdown approaches to identify novel MeCP2-regulated miRNAs enriched during early human neuronal development. Focusing on the most dysregulated miRNAs, we found miR-199 and miR-214 to be increased during early brain development and to differentially regulate extracellular signalregulated kinase (ERK)/mitogen-activated protein kinase and protein kinase B (PKB/AKT) signaling. In parallel, we characterized the effects on human neurogenesis and neuronal differentiation brought about by MeCP2 deficiency using both monolayer and threedimensional (cerebral organoid) patient-derived and MeCP2-deficient neuronal culture models. Inhibiting miR-199 or miR-214 expression in iPSC-derived neural progenitors deficient in MeCP2 restored AKT and ERK activation, respectively, and ameliorated the observed alterations in neuronal differentiation. Moreover, overexpression of miR-199 or miR-214 in the wild-type mouse embryonic brains was sufficient to disturb neurogenesis and neuronal migration in a similar manner to Mecp2 knockdown. Taken together, our data support a novel miRNA-mediated pathway downstream of MeCP2 that influences neurogenesis via interactions with central molecular hubs linked to autism spectrum disorders.

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