Mutations in the GBA gene, encoding lysosomal glucocerebrosidase, represent the major predisposing factor for Parkinson's disease (PD), and modulation of the glucocerebrosidase activity is an emerging PD therapy. However, little is known about mechanisms regulating GBA expression. We explored the existence of a regulatory network involving GBA, its expressed pseudogene GBAP1, and microRNAs. The high level of sequence identity between GBA and GBAP1 makes the pseudogene a promising competing-endogenous RNA (ceRNA), functioning as a microRNA sponge. After selecting microRNAs potentially targeting both transcripts, we demonstrated that miR-22-3p binds to and down-regulates GBA and GBAP1, and decreases their endogenous mRNA levels up to 70%. Moreover, over-expression of GBAP1 3′-untranslated region was able to sequester miR-22-3p, thus increasing GBA mRNA and glucocerebrosidase levels. The characterization of GBAP1 splicing identified multiple out-of-frame isoforms down-regulated by the nonsense-mediated mRNA decay, suggesting that GBAP1 levels and, accordingly, its ceRNA effect, are significantly modulated by this degradation process. Using skin-derived induced pluripotent stem cells of PD patients with GBA mutations and controls, we observed a significant GBA up-regulation during dopaminergic differentiation, paralleled by down-regulation of miR-22-3p. Our results describe the first microRNA controlling GBA and suggest that the GBAP1 non-coding RNA functions as a GBA ceRNA.
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