Circular RNA expression and regulatory network prediction in posterior cingulate astrocytes in elderly subjects

  • Lori Cuyugan (Contributor)
  • Shobana Sekar (Contributor)
  • Winnie S. Liang (Contributor)
  • Jonathan Adkins (Contributor)
  • Philipp Geiger (Contributor)



Abstract Background Circular RNAs (circRNAs) are a novel class of endogenous, non-coding RNAs that form covalently closed continuous loops and that are both highly conserved and abundant in the mammalian brain. A role for circRNAs in sponging microRNAs (miRNAs) has been proposed, but the circRNA-miRNA-mRNA interaction networks in human brain cells have not been defined. Therefore, we identified circRNAs in RNA sequencing data previously generated from astrocytes microdissected from the posterior cingulate (PC) of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) patients (N = 10) and healthy elderly controls (N = 10) using four circRNA prediction algorithms - CIRI, CIRCexplorer, find_circ and KNIFE. Results Overall, utilizing these four tools, we identified a union of 4438 unique circRNAs across all samples, of which 70.3% were derived from exonic regions. Notably, the widely reported CDR1as circRNA was detected in all samples across both groups by find_circ. Given the putative miRNA regulatory function of circRNAs, we identified potential miRNA targets of circRNAs, and further, delineated circRNA-miRNA-mRNA networks using in silico methods. Pathway analysis of the genes regulated by these miRNAs identified significantly enriched immune response pathways, which is consistent with the known function of astrocytes as immune sensors in the brain. Conclusions In this study, we performed circRNA detection on cell-specific transcriptomic data and identified potential circRNA-miRNA-mRNA regulatory networks in PC astrocytes. Given the known function of astrocytes in cerebral innate immunity and our identification of significantly enriched immune response pathways, the circRNAs we identified may be associated with such key functions. While we did not detect recurrent differentially expressed circRNAs in the context of healthy controls or AD, we report for the first time circRNAs and their potential regulatory impact in a cell-specific and region-specific manner in aged subjects. These predicted regulatory network and pathway analyses may help provide new insights into transcriptional regulation in the brain.
Date made availableMay 9 2018
Publisherfigshare Academic Research System

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