Integration of miRNA and Protein Profiling Reveals Coordinated Neuroadaptations in the Alcohol-Dependent Mouse Brain
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The molecular mechanisms underlying alcohol dependence involve different neurochemical systems and are brain region-dependent. Chronic Intermittent Ethanol (CIE) procedure, combined with a Two-Bottle Choice voluntary drinking paradigm, represents one of the best available animal models for alcohol dependence and relapse drinking. MicroRNAs, master regulators of the cellular transcriptome and proteome, can regulate their targets in a cooperative, combinatorial fashion, ensuring fine tuning and control over a large number of cellular functions. We analyzed cortex and midbrain microRNA expression levels using an integrative approach to combine and relate data to previous protein profiling from the same CIE-subjected samples, and examined the significance of the data in terms of relative contribution to alcohol consumption and dependence. MicroRNA levels were significantly altered in CIE-exposed dependent mice compared with their non-dependent controls. More importantly, our integrative analysis identified modules of coexpressed microRNAs that were highly correlated with CIE effects and predicted target genes encoding differentially expressed proteins. Coexpressed CIE-relevant proteins, in turn, were often negatively correlated with specific microRNA modules. Our results provide evidence that microRNA-orchestrated translational imbalances are driving the behavioral transition from alcohol consumption to dependence. This study represents the first attempt to combine ex vivo microRNA and protein expression on a global scale from the same mammalian brain samples. The integrative systems approach used here will improve our understanding of brain adaptive changes in response to drug abuse and suggests the potential therapeutic use of microRNAs as tools to prevent or compensate multiple neuroadaptations underlying addictive behavior.