Spatiotemporal control of microRNA function using light-activated antagomirs
MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are small non-coding RNAs that act as post-transcriptional gene regulators and have been shown to regulate many biological processes including embryonal development, cell differentiation, apoptosis, and proliferation. Variations in the expression of certain miRNAs have been linked to a wide range of human diseases – especially cancer – and the diversity of miRNA targets suggests that they are involved in various cellular networks. Several tools have been developed to control the function of individual miRNAs and have been applied to study their biogenesis, biological role, and therapeutic potential; however, common methods lack a precise level of control that allows for the study of miRNA function with high spatial and temporal resolution. Light-activated miRNA antagomirs for mature miR-122 and miR-21 were developed through the site-specific installation of caging groups on the bases of selected nucleotides. Installation of caged nucleotides led to complete inhibition of the antagomir-miRNA hybridization and thus inactivation of antagomir function. The miRNA-inhibitory activity of the caged antagomirs was fully restored upon decaging through a brief UV irradiation. The synthesized antagomirs were applied to the photochemical regulation of miRNA function in mammalian cells. Moreover, spatial control over antagomir activity was obtained in mammalian cells through localized UV exposure. The presented approach enables the precise regulation of miRNA function and miRNA networks with unprecedented spatial and temporal resolution using UV irradiation and can be extended to any miRNA of interest.