MicroRNAs regulate neuronal plasticity and are involved in pain mechanisms.

Sara Elramah
Front. Cell. Neurosci.. 2014-01-01; 8:
DOI: 10.3389/fncel.2014.00031

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MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are emerging as master regulators of gene expression in the
nervous system where they contribute not only to brain development but also to
neuronal network homeostasis and plasticity. Their function is the result of a
cascade of events including miRNA biogenesis, target recognition, and translation
inhibition. It has been suggested that miRNAs are major switches of the genome
owing to their ability to regulate multiple genes at the same time. This
regulation is essential for normal neuronal activity and, when affected, can lead
to drastic pathological conditions. As an example, we illustrate how deregulation
of miRNAs can affect neuronal plasticity leading to chronic pain. The origin of
pain and its dual role as a key physiological function and a debilitating disease
has been highly debated until now. The incidence of chronic pain is estimated to
be 20-25% worldwide, thus making it a public health problem. Chronic pain can be
considered as a form of maladaptive plasticity. Long-lasting modifications
develop as a result of global changes in gene expression, and are thus likely to
be controlled by miRNAs. Here, we review the literature on miRNAs and their
targets responsible for maladaptive plasticity in chronic pain conditions. In
addition, we conduct a retrospective analysis of miRNA expression data published
for different pain models, taking into account recent progress in our
understanding of the role of miRNAs in neuronal plasticity.


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