Open Access Research article

Differential miRNA expression profiles in proliferating or differentiated keratinocytes in response to gamma irradiation

Nicolas Joly-Tonetti12, José Viñuelas12, Olivier Gandrillon12 and Jérôme Lamartine12*

Author Affiliations

1 Université de Lyon, Université Claude Bernard Lyon I, Lyon, F-69003, France

2 CNRS, UMR5534, Centre de Génétique et de Physiologie Moléculaires et Cellulaires, Villeurbanne, F-69622, France

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BMC Genomics 2013, 14:184  doi:10.1186/1471-2164-14-184

Published: 16 March 2013



MicroRNAs (miRNAs), a group of short non-coding RNAs that negatively regulate gene expression, have recently emerged as potential modulators of cellular response to ionizing radiations both in vitro and in vivo in various cell types and tissues. However, in epidermal cells, the involvement of the miRNA machinery in the cellular response to ionizing radiations remains to be clarified. Indeed, understanding the mechanisms of cutaneous radiosensitivity is an important issue since skin is the most exposed organ to ionizing radiations and among the most sensitive.


We settled up an expression study of miRNAs in primary human skin keratinocytes using a microfluidic system of qPCR assay, which permits to assess the expression of almost 700 annotated miRNAs. The keratinocytes were cultured to a proliferative or a differentiated state mimicking basal or suprabasal layers of human epidermis. These cells were irradiated at 10 mGy or 6 Gy and RNA was extracted 3 hours after irradiation. We found that proliferative cells irradiated at 6 Gy display a global fall of miRNA expression whereas differentiated cells exposed to the same dose display a global increase of miRNAs expression. We identified twenty miRNAs weakly but significantly modulated after 6 Gy irradiation, whereas only 2 miRNAs were modulated after low-dose irradiation in proliferating cells. To go further into the biological meaning of this miRNA response, we over-expressed some of the responding miRNA in proliferating cells: we observed a significant decrease of cell viability 72 hours after irradiation. Functional annotation of their predicted targets revealed that G-protein related pathways might be regulated by these responding miRNAs.


Our results reveal that human primary keratinocytes exposed to ionizing irradiation expressed a miRNA pattern strongly related to the differentiation status of irradiated cells. We also demonstrate that some miRNAs play a role in the radiation response to ensure the short-term survival of irradiated keratinocytes.

Primary keratinocytes; Epidermal differentiation; Gamma irradiation; miRNAs; Expression profiling