The underlying molecular mechanisms of how dysregulated microRNAs (miRNAs) cause neurodegeneration after traumatic brain injury (TBI) remain elusive. Here we analyzed the biological roles of approximately 600 genes-we previously found these dysregulated in dying and surviving rat hippocampal neurons-that are targeted by ten TBI-altered miRNAs. Bioinformatic analysis suggests that neurodegeneration results from a global miRNA-mediated suppression of genes essential for maintaining proteostasis; many are hub genes-involved in RNA processing, cytoskeletal metabolism, intracellular trafficking, cell cycle progression, repair/maintenance, bioenergetics and cell-cell signaling-whose disrupted expression is linked to human disease. Notably, dysregulation of these essential genes would significantly impair synaptic function and functional brain connectivity. In surviving neurons, upregulated miRNA target genes are co-regulated members of prosurvival pathways associated with cellular regeneration, neural plasticity, and development. This study captures the diversity of miRNA-regulated genes that may be essential for cell repair and survival responses after TBI.
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