MicroRNAs (miRNAs), a class of small noncoding RNAs that regulate gene expression, have fundamental roles in biological processes, including cell differentiation and proliferation. These small molecules mainly direct either target messenger RNA (mRNA) degradation or translational repression, thereby functioning as gene silencers. Epithelial cells of the uterine lumen and glands undergo cyclic changes under the influence of the sex steroid hormones estradiol-17beta and progesterone. Because the expression of miRNAs in human endometrium has been established, it is important to understand whether miRNAs have a physiological role in modulating the expression of hormonally induced genes. The studies herein establish concomitant differential miRNA and mRNA expression profiles of uterine epithelial cells purified from endometrial biopsy specimens in the late proliferative and midsecretory phases. Bioinformatics analysis of differentially expressed mRNAs revealed cell cycle regulation as the most significantly enriched pathway in the late proliferative-phase endometrial epithelium (P = 5.7 × 10−15). In addition, the WNT signaling pathway was enriched in the proliferative phase. The 12 miRNAs (MIR29B, MIR29C, MIR30B, MIR30D, MIR31, MIR193A-3P, MIR203, MIR204, MIR200C, MIR210, MIR582-5P, and MIR345) whose expression was significantly up-regulated in the midsecretory-phase samples were predicted to target many cell cycle genes. Consistent with the role of miRNAs in suppressing their target mRNA expression, the transcript abundance of predicted targets, including cyclins and cyclin-dependent kinases, as well as E2F3 (a known target of MIR210), was decreased. Thus, our findings suggest a role for miRNAs in down-regulating the expression of some cell cycle genes in the secretory-phase endometrial epithelium, thereby suppressing cell proliferation.
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Vol. 82 • No. 4