Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

MicroRNA-34a modulates genes involved in cellular motility and oxidative phosphorylation in neural precursors derived from human umbilical cord mesenchymal stem cells

Shing-Jyh Chang12, Shun-Long Weng1, Jui-Yu Hsieh3, Tao-Yeuan Wang45, Margaret Dah-Tsyr Chang2 and Hsei-Wei Wang367*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Hsinchu Mackay Memorial Hospital, Hsinchu, 300, Taiwan

2 Institute of Molecular and Cellular Biology, National Tsing Hua University, Hsinchu, 300, Taiwan

3 Institute of Microbiology and Immunology, National Yang-Ming University, Taipei, 112, Taiwan

4 Department of Pathology, Mackay Memorial Hospital, Taipei, 104, Taiwan

5 Mackay Medicine, Nursing and Management College, Taipei, 112, Taiwan

6 VGH-YM Genome Research Center, National Yang-Ming University, Taipei, 112, Taiwan

7 Department of Education and Research, Taipei City Hospital, Taipei, 103, Taiwan

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BMC Medical Genomics 2011, 4:65  doi:10.1186/1755-8794-4-65

Published: 19 September 2011



Mesenchymal stem cell (MSC) found in bone marrow (BM-MSCs) and the Wharton's jelly matrix of human umbilical cord (WJ-MSCs) are able to transdifferentiate into neuronal lineage cells both in vitro and in vivo and therefore hold the potential to treat neural disorders such as stroke or Parkinson's disease. In bone marrow MSCs, miR-130a and miR-206 have been show to regulate the synthesis of neurotransmitter substance P in human mesenchymal stem cell-derived neuronal cells. However, how neuronal differentiation is controlled in WJ-MSC remains unclear.


WJ-MSCs were isolated from human umbilical cords. We subjected WJ-MSCs into neurogenesis by a published protocol, and the miRNome patterns of WJ-MSCs and their neuronal progenitors (day 9 after differentiation) were analyzed by the Agilent microRNA microarray.


Five miRNAs were enriched in WJ-MSCs, including miR-345, miR-106a, miR-17-5p, miR-20a and miR-20b. Another 11 miRNAs (miR-206, miR-34a, miR-374, miR-424, miR-100, miR-101, miR-323, miR-368, miR-137, miR-138 and miR-377) were abundantly expressed in transdifferentiated neuronal progenitors. Among these miRNAs, miR-34a and miR-206 were the only 2 miRNAs been linked to BM-MSC neurogenesis. Overexpressing miR-34a in cells suppressed the expression of 136 neuronal progenitor genes, which all possess putative miR-34a binding sites. Gene enrichment analysis according to the Gene Ontology database showed that those 136 genes were associated with cell motility, energy production (including those with oxidative phosphorylation, electron transport and ATP synthesis) and actin cytoskeleton organization, indicating that miR-34a plays a critical role in precursor cell migration. Knocking down endogenous miR-34a expression in WJ-MSCs resulted in the augment of WJ-MSC motility.


Our data suggest a critical role of miRNAs in MSC neuronal differentiation, and miR-34a contributes in neuronal precursor motility, which may be crucial for stem cells to home to the target sites they should be.