Open Access Open Badges Research article

Altered expression of microRNA in the airway wall in chronic asthma: miR-126 as a potential therapeutic target

Adam Collison1, Cristan Herbert2, Jessica S Siegle2, Joerg Mattes1, Paul S Foster1 and Rakesh K Kumar2*

Author Affiliations

1 Centre for Asthma and Respiratory Disease, University of Newcastle and Hunter Medical Research Institute, Newcastle, Australia

2 Inflammation and Infection Research Centre, University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia

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BMC Pulmonary Medicine 2011, 11:29  doi:10.1186/1471-2466-11-29

Published: 23 May 2011



The role of microRNAs (miRNAs) in regulating gene expression is currently an area of intense interest. Relatively little is known, however, about the role of miRNAs in inflammatory and immunologically-driven disorders. In a mouse model, we have previously shown that miRNAs are potentially important therapeutic targets in allergic asthma, because inhibition of miR-126, one of a small subset of miRNAs upregulated in the airway wall, effectively suppressed Th2-driven airway inflammation and other features of asthma. In the present study, we extended investigation of the therapeutic potential of miRNA inhibition to our well-established model of chronic asthma.


Female BALB/c mice were systemically sensitised with ovalbumin (OVA) and chronically challenged with low mass concentrations of aerosolised OVA for up to 6 weeks. Airway tissue was obtained by blunt dissection and RNA was isolated for miRNA profiling. On the basis of the results obtained, animals were subsequently treated with either an antagomir to miR-126 (ant-miR-126) or a scrambled control antagomir once weekly during the 6 weeks of chronic challenge, and the effects on airway inflammation and remodelling were assessed using established morphometric techniques.


Compared to naïve mice, there was selective upregulation of a modest number of miRNAs, notably miR-126, in the airway wall tissue of chronically challenged animals. The relative increase was maximal after 2 weeks of inhalational challenge and subsequently declined to baseline levels. Compared to treatment with the scrambled control, ant-miR-126 significantly reduced recruitment of intraepithelial eosinophils, but had no effect on the chronic inflammatory response, or on changes of airway remodelling.


In this model of chronic asthma, there was an initial increase in expression of a small number of miRNAs in the airway wall, notably miR-126. However, this later declined to baseline levels, suggesting that sustained changes in miRNA may not be essential for perpetuation of chronic asthma. Moreover, inhibition of miR-126 by administration of an antagomir suppressed eosinophil recruitment into the airways but had no effect on chronic inflammation in the airway wall, or on changes of remodelling, suggesting that multiple miRNAs are likely to regulate the development of these lesions.