Micro spies from the brain to the periphery: New clues from studies on microRNAs in neuropsychiatric disorders

Elisabetta Maffioletti, Daniela Tardito, Massimo Gennarelli, Luisella Bocchio-Chiavetto

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


microRNAs (miRNAs) are small non-coding RNAs (20-22 nucleotides) playing a major role in post-transcriptional regulation of gene expression. miRNAs are predicted to regulate more than 50% of all the protein-coding genes. Increasing evidence indicates that they may play key roles in the biological pathways that regulate neurogenesis and synaptic plasticity, as well as in neurotransmitter homeostasis in the adult brain. In this article we review recent studies suggesting that miRNAs may be involved in the pathophysiology of neuropsychiatric disorders and in the action of psychotropic drugs, in particular by analyzing the contribution of genomic studies in patients' peripheral tissues. Alterations in miRNA expression have been observed in schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, major depression, Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease and other neuropsychiatric conditions. In particular, intriguing findings concern the identification of disease-associated miRNA signatures in peripheral tissues, or modifications in miRNA profiles induced by drug treatments. Furthermore, genetic variations in miRNA sequences and miRNA-related genes have been described in neuropsychiatric diseases. Overall, though still at a preliminary stage, several lines of evidence indicate an involvement of miRNAs in both the pathophysiology and pharmacotherapy of neuropsychiatric disorders. In this regard, the data obtained in peripheral tissues may provide further insights into the etiopathogenesis of several brain diseases and contribute to identify new biomarkers for diagnostic assessment improvement and treatment personalization.

Original languageEnglish
Article number75
JournalFrontiers in Cellular Neuroscience
Issue numberMAR
Publication statusPublished - Mar 11 2014


  • Alzheimer disease
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Genetic variation
  • Major depression
  • microRNA
  • Parkinson disease
  • Schizophrenia
  • SNP

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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