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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Teratogen-induced alterations in microRNA-34, microRNA-125b and microRNA-155 expression: correlation with embryonic p53 genotype and limb phenotype

Keren Gueta1, Natali Molotski2, Natalie Gerchikov1, Eyal Mor1, Shoshana Savion1, Amos Fein1, Vladimir Toder1, Noam Shomron1 and Arkady Torchinsky1*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Cell and Developmental Biology, Sackler School of Medicine, Tel Aviv University, Ramat Aviv, Tel Aviv, 69978, Israel

2 Department of Biological Chemistry, the Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot, Israel

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BMC Developmental Biology 2010, 10:20  doi:10.1186/1471-213X-10-20

Published: 21 February 2010



In a large number of studies, members of the microRNA (miRNA)-34 family such as miRNA-34a, miRNA-34b, miRNA-34c, as well as miRNA-125b and miRNA-155, have been shown to be regulators of apoptosis. The ability of these miRNAs to perform this function is mainly attributed to their ability to interact with the p53 tumor suppressor, which is a powerful regulator of the teratologic susceptibility of embryos. We chose to explore whether miRNA-34a/b/c, miRNA-125b and miRNA-155 may play a role in teratogenesis by using p53+/- pregnant mice treated with cyclophosphamide (CP) as a model. We evaluated how CP-induced alterations in the expression of these miRNAs in the embryonic limbs correlate with embryonic p53 genotype and CP-induced limb phenotypes.


The limbs of p53 positive embryos were more sensitive to CP-induced teratogenic insult than the limbs of p53 negative embryos. The hindlimbs were more severely affected than the forelimbs. Robust miRNA-34a expression was observed in the fore- and hindlimbs of p53+/+ embryos exposed to 12.5 mg/kg CP. The dose of 20 mg/kg CP induced almost a two-fold increase in the level of miRNA-34a expression as compared to that exhibited by p53+/+ embryos exposed to a lower dose. Increased miRNA-34b and miRNA-34c expression was also observed. Of note, this dose activated miRNA-34a and miRNA-34c in the forelimbs of p53-/- embryos. When embryos were exposed to 40 mg/kg CP, the expression pattern of the miRNA-34a/b/c was identical to that registered in the limbs of embryos exposed to 20 mg/kg CP. However, this dose suppressed miRNA-125b and miRNA-155 expression in the fore- and hindlimbs of p53+/+ embryos.


This study demonstrates that teratogen-induced limb dysmorphogenesis may be associated with alterations in miRNA-34, miRNA-125b and miRNA-155 expression. It also suggests for the first time that p53-independent mechanisms exist contributing to teratogen-induced activation of miRNA-34a and miRNA-34c. At the same time, teratogen-induced suppression of miRNA-125b and miRNA-155 expression may be p53 dependent. The analysis of correlations between the expression pattern of the tested miRNAs and CP induced limb phenotypes implies that miRNAs regulating apoptosis may differ from each other with respect to their functional role in teratogenesis: some miRNAs act to protect embryos, whereas other miRNAs boost a teratogen-induced process of maldevelopment to induce embryonic death.