MicroRNA-138: an emerging regulator of skeletal development, homeostasis, and disease

Victor Gustavo Balera Brito, Austin Bell-Hensley, Audrey McAlinden

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Noncoding microRNAs are powerful epigenetic regulators of cellular processes by their ability to target and suppress expression of numerous protein-coding mRNAs. This multitargeting function is a unique and complex feature of microRNAs. It is now well-described that microRNAs play important roles in regulating the development and homeostasis of many cell/tissue types, including those that make up the skeletal system. In this review, we focus on microRNA-138 (miR-138) and its effects on regulating bone and cartilage cell differentiation and function. In addition to its reported role as a tumor suppressor, miR-138 appears to function as an inhibitor of osteoblast differentiation. This review provides additional information on studies that have attempted to alter miR-138 expression in vivo as a means to dampen ectopic calcification or alter bone mass. However, a review of the published literature on miR-138 in cartilage reveals a number of contradictory and inconclusive findings with respect to regulating chondrogenesis and chondrocyte catabolism. This highlights the need for more research in understanding the role of miR-138 in cartilage biology and disease. Interestingly, a number of studies in other systems have reported miR-138-mediated effects in dampening inflammation and pain responses. Future studies will reveal if a multifunctional role of miR-138 involving suppression of ectopic bone, inflammation, and pain will be beneficial in skeletal conditions such as osteoarthritis and heterotopic ossification.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)C1387-C1400
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Cell Physiology
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2023


  • bone
  • cartilage
  • microRNA
  • miR-138
  • osteogenesis


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