Background: Crohn's disease (CD) is a debilitating inflammatory bowel disease that emerges due to the influence of genetic and environmental factors. miRNAs have been identified in the tissue and sera of IBD patients and may play an important role in the induction of IBD.
Our study aimed to identify differentially expressed miRNAs and miRNAs with the ability to alter transcriptome activity by comparing inflamed tissue samples with their non-inflamed counterparts.
Methods: We studied changes in miRNA-mRNA interactions associated with CD by examining their differential co-expression relative to normal mucosa from the same patients. After written informed consent was obtained, specimens were collected from inflamed and adjacent (at least 30 cm away from the inflamed area) non-inflamed areas of the colon. Correlation changes between the two conditions were incorporated into scores of predefined gene sets to identify biological processes with altered miRNA-mediated control.
Results: Our study identified 28 miRNAs differentially expressed (p-values <0.01), of which 14 are up-regulated. Notably, our differential co-expression analysis highlights microRNAs (i.e., miR-4284, miR-3194 and miR-21) that have known functional interactions with key mechanisms implicated in IBD. Most of these miRNAs cannot be detected by differential expression analysis that do not take into account miRNA-mRNA interactions.
Conclusions: The identification of differential miRNA-mRNA co-expression patterns will facilitate the investigation of the miRNA-mediated molecular mechanisms underlying CD pathogenesis and could suggest novel drug targets for validation.