Neurogenic transcription factors and evolutionarily conserved signalling pathways have been found to be instrumental in the formation of neurons1,2. However, the instructive role of microRNAs (miRNAs) in neurogenesis remains unexplored. We recently discovered that miR-9* and miR-124 instruct compositional changes of SWI/SNF-like BAF chromatin-remodelling complexes, a process important for neuronal differentiation and function3,4,5,6. Nearing mitotic exit of neural progenitors, miR-9* and miR-124 repress the BAF53a subunit of the neural-progenitor (np)BAF chromatin-remodelling complex. After mitotic exit, BAF53a is replaced by BAF53b, and BAF45a by BAF45b and BAF45c, which are then incorporated into neuron-specific (n)BAF complexes essential for post-mitotic functions4. Because miR-9/9* and miR-124 also control multiple genes regulating neuronal differentiation and function5,7,8,9,10,11,12,13, we proposed that these miRNAs might contribute to neuronal fates. Here we show that expression of miR-9/9* and miR-124 (miR-9/9*-124) in human fibroblasts induces their conversion into neurons, a process facilitated by NEUROD2. Further addition of neurogenic transcription factors ASCL1 and MYT1L enhances the rate of conversion and the maturation of the converted neurons, whereas expression of these transcription factors alone without miR-9/9*-124 was ineffective. These studies indicate that the genetic circuitry involving miR-9/9*-124 can have an instructive role in neural fate determination.
Subscribe to Journal
Get full journal access for 1 year
only $3.90 per issue
All prices are NET prices.
VAT will be added later in the checkout.
Rent or Buy article
Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.
All prices are NET prices.
Hansen, D. V., Lui, J. H., Parker, P. R. & Kriegstein, A. R. Neurogenic radial glia in the outer subventricular zone of human neocortex. Nature 464, 554–561 (2010)
Hansen, D. V., Rubenstein, J. L. & Kriegstein, A. R. Deriving excitatory neurons of the neocortex from pluripotent stem cells. Neuron 70, 645–660 (2011)
Lessard, J. et al. An essential switch in subunit composition of a chromatin remodeling complex during neural development. Neuron 55, 201–215 (2007)
Wu, J. et al. Regulation of dendritic development by neuron-specific chromatin remodeling complexes. Neuron 56, 94–108 (2007)
Yoo, A. S., Staahl, B. T., Chen, L. & Crabtree, G. R. MicroRNA-mediated switching of chromatin-remodelling complexes in neural development. Nature 460, 642–646 (2009)
Wu, J. I., Lessard, J. & Crabtree, G. R. Understanding the words of chromatin regulation. Cell 136, 200–206 (2009)
Makeyev, E. V., Zhang, J., Carrasco, M. A. & Maniatis, T. The MicroRNA miR-124 promotes neuronal differentiation by triggering brain-specific alternative pre-mRNA splicing. Mol. Cell 27, 435–448 (2007)
Packer, A. N., Xing, Y., Harper, S. Q., Jones, L. & Davidson, B. L. The bifunctional microRNA miR-9/miR-9* regulates REST and CoREST and is downregulated in Huntington’s disease. J. Neurosci. 28, 14341–14346 (2008)
Visvanathan, J., Lee, S., Lee, B., Lee, J. W. & Lee, S. K. The microRNA miR-124 antagonizes the anti-neural REST/SCP1 pathway during embryonic CNS development. Genes Dev. 21, 744–749 (2007)
Cheng, L. C., Pastrana, E., Tavazoie, M. & Doetsch, F. miR-124 regulates adult neurogenesis in the subventricular zone stem cell niche. Nature Neurosci. 12, 399–408 (2009)
Krichevsky, A. M., Sonntag, K. C., Isacson, O. & Kosik, K. S. Specific microRNAs modulate embryonic stem cell-derived neurogenesis. Stem Cells 24, 857–864 (2006)
Maiorano, N. A. & Mallamaci, A. Promotion of embryonic cortico-cerebral neuronogenesis by miR-124. Neural Develop. 4, 40 (2009)
Tang, X. et al. A simple array platform for microRNA analysis and its application in mouse tissues. RNA 13, 1803–1822 (2007)
Lin, C. H. et al. The dosage of the neuroD2 transcription factor regulates amygdala development and emotional learning. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 102, 14877–14882 (2005)
McCormick, M. B. et al. neuroD2 and neuroD3: distinct expression patterns and transcriptional activation potentials within the neuroD gene family. Mol. Cell. Biol. 16, 5792–5800 (1996)
Olson, J. M. et al. NeuroD2 is necessary for development and survival of central nervous system neurons. Dev. Biol. 234, 174–187 (2001)
Ince-Dunn, G. et al. Regulation of thalamocortical patterning and synaptic maturation by NeuroD2. Neuron 49, 683–695 (2006)
Ryan, T. A. et al. The kinetics of synaptic vesicle recycling measured at single presynaptic boutons. Neuron 11, 713–724 (1993)
Vierbuchen, T. et al. Direct conversion of fibroblasts to functional neurons by defined factors. Nature 463, 1035–1041 (2010)
Parrish, J. Z., Kim, M. D., Jan, L. Y. & Jan, Y. N. Genome-wide analyses identify transcription factors required for proper morphogenesis of Drosophila sensory neuron dendrites. Genes Dev. 20, 820–835 (2006)
Ho, L. et al. An embryonic stem cell chromatin remodeling complex, esBAF, is an essential component of the core pluripotency transcriptional network. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 106, 5187–5191 (2009)
Ho, L., Miller, E. L., Ronan, J. L., Ho, W. Q., Jothi, R. & Crabtree, G. R. esBAF facilitates pluripotency by conditioning the genome for LIF/STAT3 signaling and by regulating polycomb function. Nature Cell Biol. (in the press)
Coolen, M. & Bally-Cuif, L. MicroRNAs in brain development and physiology. Curr. Opin. Neurobiol. 19, 461–470 (2009)
Wu, J. & Xie, X. Comparative sequence analysis reveals an intricate network among REST, CREB and miRNA in mediating neuronal gene expression. Genome Biol. 7, R85 (2006)
Laneve, P. et al. A minicircuitry involving REST and CREB controls miR-9-2 expression during human neuronal differentiation. Nucleic Acids Res. 38, 6895–6905 (2010)
Andres, M. E. et al. CoREST: a functional corepressor required for regulation of neural-specific gene expression. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 96, 9873–9878 (1999)
Barry, P. H. JPCalc, a software package for calculating liquid junction potential corrections in patch-clamp, intracellular, epithelial and bilayer measurements and for correcting junction potential measurements. J. Neurosci. Methods 51, 107–116 (1994)
We thank I. Graef and A. Cho for helpful suggestions and reagents, A. Kuo and W. Ho for technical help, and X. Bao and P. Khavari for their generous gift of reagents. A.S.Y. is a fellow of the Helen Hay Whitney Foundation. A.X.S. is funded by the Agency of Science, Technology and Research of Singapore (A*STAR). L.L. is supported by the Stanford Medical Scientist Training Program, National Institutes of Mental Health (NIMH) F30MH093125, and the Frances B. Nelson predoctoral fellowship. A.S. is supported by the CIRM post-doctoral fellowship. T.P. is supported by a Swiss National Science Foundation SNSF fellowship for advanced researchers (PA00P3_134196). R.E.D. is supported by the NIH Director’s Award, and awards from the Simon’s Foundation and the CIRM. R.E.D. is also grateful for funding from B. and F. Horowitz, M. McCafferey, B. and J. Packard, P. Kwan and K. Wang. R.W.T. is supported by grants from the Simons, Mathers and Burnett Family Foundations. This work was supported by grants from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (G.R.C.) and the NIH (HD55391, AI060037 and NS046789 to G.R.C., and NS24067, GM58234 and MH064070 to R.W.T.).
The authors declare no competing financial interests.
About this article
Cite this article
Yoo, A., Sun, A., Li, L. et al. MicroRNA-mediated conversion of human fibroblasts to neurons. Nature 476, 228–231 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1038/nature10323
Direct cell fate conversion of human somatic stem cells into cone and rod photoreceptor-like cells by inhibition of microRNA-203
Neural Regeneration Research (2021)
Stem Cell Research (2020)
High-Throughput Fluorescence-Based Screen Identifies the Neuronal MicroRNA miR-124 as a Positive Regulator of Alphavirus Infection
Journal of Virology (2020)
Cell & Bioscience (2020)