JCI Insight (Dec 2020)

Identifying cell-enriched miRNAs in kidney injury and repair

  • Katie L. Connor,
  • Oliver Teenan,
  • Carolynn Cairns,
  • Victoria Banwell,
  • Rachel A.B. Thomas,
  • Julie Rodor,
  • Sarah Finnie,
  • Riinu Pius,
  • Gillian M. Tannahill,
  • Vishal Sahni,
  • Caroline O.S. Savage,
  • Jeremy Hughes,
  • Ewen M. Harrison,
  • Robert B. Henderson,
  • Lorna P. Marson,
  • Bryan R. Conway,
  • Stephen J. Wigmore,
  • Laura Denby

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 5, no. 24


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Small noncoding RNAs, miRNAs (miRNAs), are emerging as important modulators in the pathogenesis of kidney disease, with potential as biomarkers of kidney disease onset, progression, or therapeutic efficacy. Bulk tissue small RNA-sequencing (sRNA-Seq) and microarrays are widely used to identify dysregulated miRNA expression but are limited by the lack of precision regarding the cellular origin of the miRNA. In this study, we performed cell-specific sRNA-Seq on tubular cells, endothelial cells, PDGFR-β+ cells, and macrophages isolated from injured and repairing kidneys in the murine reversible unilateral ureteric obstruction model. We devised an unbiased bioinformatics pipeline to define the miRNA enrichment within these cell populations, constructing a miRNA catalog of injury and repair. Our analysis revealed that a significant proportion of cell-specific miRNAs in healthy animals were no longer specific following injury. We then applied this knowledge of the relative cell specificity of miRNAs to deconvolute bulk miRNA expression profiles in the renal cortex in murine models and human kidney disease. Finally, we used our data-driven approach to rationally select macrophage-enriched miR-16-5p and miR-18a-5p and demonstrate that they are promising urinary biomarkers of acute kidney injury in renal transplant recipients.