Reciprocal actions of REST and a microRNA promote neuronal identity

Cecilia Conaco, Stefanie Otto, Jong Jin Han, Gail Mandel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

609 Scopus citations


MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are implicated in both tissue differentiation and maintenance of tissue identity. In most cases, however, the mechanisms underlying their regulation are not known. One brain-specific miRNA, miR-124a, decreases the levels of hundreds of nonneuronal transcripts, such that its introduction into HeLa cells promotes a neuronal-like mRNA profile. The transcriptional repressor, RE1 silencing transcription factor (REST), has a reciprocal activity, inhibiting the expression of neuronal genes in nonneuronal cells. Here, we show that REST regulates the expression of a family of miRNAs, including brain-specific miR-124a. In nonneuronal cells and neural progenitors, REST inhibits miR-124a expression, allowing the persistence of nonneuronal transcripts. As progenitors differentiate into mature neurons, REST leaves miR-124a gene loci, and nonneuronal transcripts are degraded selectively. Thus, the combined transcriptional and posttranscriptional consequences of REST action maximize the contrast between neuronal and nonneuronal cell phenotypes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2422-2427
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number7
StatePublished - Feb 14 2006
Externally publishedYes


  • Neuronal phenotype
  • Noncoding RNA
  • Repression

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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