MiRNA microarray and qRT-PCR were used to screen and validate differentially miRNA expressed in blood samples from VSD and normal infants. The target genes regulated by differentially expressed miRNAs were predicted using three target gene databases. The functions and signaling pathways of the target genes were enriched using the GO database and KEGG database, respectively. The transcription and protein expression of specific target genes in critical pathways were compared in the VSD and normal control groups using qRT-PCR and western blotting, respectively. Compared with the normal control group, the VSD group had 22 differentially expressed miRNAs; 19 were downregulated and three were upregulated. The 10,677 predicted target genes participated in many biological functions related to cardiac development and morphogenesis. Four target genes (mGLUR, Gq, PLC, and PKC) were involved in the PKC pathway and four (ECM, FAK, PI3 K, and PDK1) were involved in the PI3 K-Akt pathway. The transcription and protein expression of these eight target genes were significantly upregulated in the VSD group.
The 22 miRNAs that were dysregulated in the VSD group were mainly downregulated, which may result in the dysregulation of several key genes and biological functions related to cardiac development. These effects could also be exerted via the upregulation of eight specific target genes, the subsequent over-activation of the PKC and PI3 K-Akt pathways, and the eventual abnormal cardiac development and VSD.
Heat map (cluster analysis map) of the 22 differentially expressed miRNAs. The top shows the sample names in the VSD group and normal control group. The right shows the miRNA names, and the left shows the miRNA clustering tree that clusters the miRNAs by their expression in each sample. The color represents the miRNA expression; red and green denote miRNAs expressed at high and low levels in the sample, respectively.