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MicroRNAs as biomarkers for psychiatric disorders with a focus on autism spectrum disorder: Current progress in genetic association studies, expression profiling, and translational research

ABSTRACT

MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are a group of small noncoding RNA molecules, 18–25 nucleotides in length, which can negatively regulate gene expression at the post-transcriptional level by binding to messenger RNAs. About half of all identified miRNAs in humans are expressed in the brain and display regulatory functions important for many biological processes related to the development of the central nervous system (CNS). Disruptions in miRNA biogenesis and miRNA-target interaction have been related to CNS diseases, including psychiatric disorders. In this review, we focus on the role of miRNAs in autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and summarize recent findings about ASD-associated genetic variants in miRNA genes, in miRNA biogenesis genes, and miRNA targets. We discuss deregulation of miRNA expression in ASD and functional validation of ASD-related miRNAs in animal models. Including miRNAs in studies of ASD will contribute to our understanding of its etiology and pathogenesis and facilitate the discrimination between different disease subgroups. Autism Res 2017. © 2017 International Society for Autism Research, Wiley Periodicals, Inc.