Expression profiling of mitochondria-associated microRNAs during osteogenic differentiation of human MSCs

Hongjun Zheng, Jin Liu, Jinsheng Yu, Audrey McAlinden

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Small non-coding microRNAs (miRNAs) have the ability to target and bind to many mRNAs within the cytosol resulting in reduced protein expression and modulation of a number of cellular pathways and networks. In addition to the cytosol, miRNAs have been identified in other cellular compartments and organelles, including the mitochondria. While a few mitochondria-associated miRNAs (mitomiRs) are predicted to be derived from the mitochondrial genome, the majority appear to be transcribed from nuclear DNA and somehow transported into the mitochondria. These findings raise interesting questions about why miRNAs are located in the mitochondria and if they play a role in regulating processes within these organelles. Previously published work from our laboratory showed that miR-181a/b can regulate osteogenesis, in part, by enhancing mitochondrial metabolism. In other published studies, miR-181 paralogs and many other miRNAs have been identified in mitochondrial extracts derived from common cell lines and specific primary cells and tissues. Taken together, we were motivated to identify mitomiR expression profiles during in vitro osteogenesis. Specifically, we obtained RNA from purified mitochondrial extracts of human bone marrow-derived mesenchymal stem/stromal cells (MSCs) and from whole cell extracts of MSCs at day 0 or following osteogenic induction for 3, 7 and 14 days. Utilizing Affymetrix GeneChip™ miRNA 4.0 arrays, mitomiR expression signatures were determined at each time point. Based on the Affymetrix detection above background algorithm, the total number of miRNAs detected in MSC mitochondria extracts was 527 (non-induced MSCs), 627 (day 3 induced), 372 (day 7 induced) and 498 (day 14 induced). In addition, we identified significantly differentially-expressed mitomiRs at day 7 and day 14 of osteogenic induction when compared to day 0 (fold change ≥1.5; adjusted p value <0.05). In general, the most pronounced and highly significant changes in mitomiR expression during osteogenesis were observed at the day 7 time point. Interestingly, most miRNAs found to be differentially-expressed in mitochondria extracts did not show significantly altered expression in whole cell extracts at the same time points during osteoblast differentiation. This array study provides novel information on miRNAs associated with the mitochondria in MSCs during differentiation toward the osteoblast phenotype. These findings will guide future research to identify new miRNA candidates that may function in regulating mitochondrial function and/or bone formation, homeostasis or repair.

Original languageEnglish
Article number116058
StatePublished - Oct 2021


  • Bone
  • Metabolism
  • MicroRNA
  • Mitochondria
  • MitomiR
  • Osteogenesis


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