The role of miRNA in the normal development of the brain and neuropathies
Proper brain development is required for normal cognitive functions in mammals. Recent studies have shown that both protein-coding genes and noncoding RNAs, especially microRNAs (miRNAs), play crucial roles in brain development. We have identified several miRNAs that are expressed in specific regions in the embryonic and adult mouse cerebral cortex, and demonstrated their important roles in cortical development and functions. Using mouse genetic and RNA-sequencing approaches, we show that miRNAs control brain size by regulating essential target genes that determine proliferation, survival and differentiation of cortical neural progenitors. We also show that proper expression of miRNAs is required for normal proliferation of adult hippocampal neural progenitors. Our results demonstrate miRNAs as important molecules that regulate both brain development and neurological disorders. The students will learn basic molecular biology techniques, neural stem cell cultures, gene sequencing analyses and so on. The students will develop skills of independent thinking and experimental designs.