January 31, 2019

Destructive ‘telegrams’ in asthma

Vanderbilt investigators have discovered that certain microRNAs — “telegram”-like signals — increase after the induction of allergic airway inflammation.

by Bill Snyder

MicroRNAs are short segments of ribonucleic nucleic acids that regulate gene expression. They not only control the function of the cell that produces them, but they can be packaged into extracellular vesicles (EVs) and transmitted between cells like “telegrams.”

A crucial first step in being able to use these microRNA “telegrams” to improve diagnosis and treatment of disease is determining where they are coming from.

Using high-throughput sequencing, genetic membrane tagging, and a single vesicle flow technique in a mouse model of asthma, Heather Pua, MD, PhD, and colleagues at the University of California, San Francisco, found that microRNAs and EVs selectively expressed by immune cells increased after the induction of allergic airway inflammation.

Their findings, reported in the journal Cell Reports, provide insight into how infiltrating immune cells alter the local tissue environment with the hope of identifying how these “telegrams” may be intercepted before their destructive messages can be carried out.

This research was supported by the National Institutes of Health (grants CA179512, AI116949) and the Department of Pathology, Microbiology and Immunology at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. The publication is part of the NIH Extracellular RNA Communication Consortium paper package and was supported by the NIH Common Fund’s exRNA Communication Program.