Weizhi Ji

Kunming University of Science and Technology, Yün-nan, Yunnan, China

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Publications (76)404.47 Total impact

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    ABSTRACT: Pluripotent stem cell (PSC) usage in heart regenerative medicine requires producing enriched cardiomyocytes (CMs) with mature phenotypes in a defined medium. However, current methods are typically performed in 2D environments that produce immature CMs. Here we report a simple, growth factor-free 3D culture system to rapidly and efficiently generate 85.07 ± 1.8% of spontaneously contractile cardiac spheres (scCDSs) using 3D-cultured human and monkey PSC-spheres. Along with small molecule-based 3D induction, this protocol produces CDSs of up to 95.7% CMs at a yield of up to 237 CMs for every input pluripotent cell, is effective for human and monkey PSCs, and maintains 81.03 ± 12.43% of CDSs in spontaneous contractibility for over three months. These CDSs displayed CM ultrastructure, calcium transient, appropriate pharmacological responses and CM gene expression profiles specific for maturity. Furthermore, 3D-derived CMs displayed more mature phenotypes than those from a parallel 2D-culture. The system is compatible to large-scaly produce CMs for disease study, cell therapy and pharmaceutics screening. Copyright © 2015 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
    Biomaterials 10/2015; 65. DOI:10.1016/j.biomaterials.2015.06.024 · 8.31 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: CRISPR/Cas9 has been used to genetically modify genomes in a variety of species, including non-human primates. Unfortunately, this new technology does cause mosaic mutations, and we do not yet know whether such mutations can functionally disrupt the targeted gene, or cause the pathology seen in human disease. Addressing these issues is necessary if we are to generate large animal models of human diseases using CRISPR/Cas9. Here we used CRISPR/Cas9 to target the monkey dystrophin gene to create mutations that lead to Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD), a recessive X-linked form of muscular dystrophy. Examination of the relative targeting rate revealed that Crispr/Cas9 targeting could lead to mosaic mutations in up to 87% of the dystrophin alleles in monkey muscle. Moreover, CRISPR/Cas9 induced mutations in both male and female monkeys, with the markedly depleted dystrophin and muscle degeneration seen in early DMD. Our findings indicate that CRISPR/Cas9 can efficiently generate monkey models of human diseases, regardless of inheritance patterns. The presence of degenerated muscle cells in newborn Cas9-targeted monkeys suggests that therapeutic interventions at the early disease stage may be effective at alleviating the myopathy.
    Human Molecular Genetics 07/2015; DOI:10.1093/hmg/ddv120 · 6.68 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Because of their similarity to humans, non-human primates are important models for studying human disease and developing therapeutic strategies. Establishment of chimeric animals using embryonic stem cells (ESCs) could help with these investigations, but has not so far been achieved. Here, we show that cynomolgus monkey ESCs (cESCs) grown in adjusted culture conditions are able to incorporate into host embryos and develop into chimeras with contribution in all three germ layers and in germ cell progenitors. Under the optimized culture conditions, which are based on an approach developed previously for naive human ESCs, the cESCs displayed altered growth properties, gene expression profiles, and self-renewal signaling pathways, suggestive of an altered naive-like cell state. Thus our findings show that it is feasible to generate chimeric monkeys using ESCs and open up new avenues for the use of non-human primate models to study both pluripotency and human disease. Copyright © 2015 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
    Cell stem cell 06/2015; 17(1). DOI:10.1016/j.stem.2015.06.004 · 22.15 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: To develop a whole-genome methylation sequencing method that fulfills the needs for studies using ultra-low-input DNA. The tagmentation-based whole-genome bisulfite sequencing (T-WGBS) technology is modified, enabling stable library construction with complexity from minimally 0.5 ng of initial genomic DNA, which equals less than 100 mammalian cells. We thoroughly assessed the performance of this T-WGBS method by sequencing the methylomes of a rice strain and pre-implantation embryos of rhesus monkey and compare to traditional WGBS approach, thereby demonstrating the efficacy of this new approach. This new approach is highly attractive for the complete methylome analysis of very few cells, for example, mammalian pre-implantation embryos, or tiny human biopsy specimens.
    Epigenomics 02/2015; 7(1):47-56. DOI:10.2217/epi.14.76 · 5.22 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Parkinson's disease (PD) is an age-dependent neurodegenerative disease that can be caused by genetic mutations in α-synuclein (α-syn) or duplication of wild-type α-syn; PD is characterized by the deposition of α-syn aggregates, indicating a gain of toxicity from accumulation of α-syn. Although the major neuropathologic feature of PD is the degeneration of dopaminergic (DA) neurons in the substantia nigra, non-motor symptoms including anxiety, cognitive defect, and sleep disorder precede the onset of motor impairment, and many clinical symptoms of PD are not caused by degeneration of DA neurons. Non-human primate models of PD are important for revealing the early pathology in PD and identifying effective treatments. We established transgenic PD rhesus monkeys that express mutant α-syn (A53T). Six transgenic A53T monkeys were produced via lentiviral vector expressing A53T in fertilized monkey eggs and subsequent embryo transfer to surrogates. Transgenic A53T is expressed in the monkey brain and causes age-dependent non-motor symptoms, including cognitive defects and anxiety phenotype, without detectable sleeping disorders. The transgenic α-syn monkeys demonstrate the specific early symptoms caused by mutant α-syn and provide insight into treatment of early Parkinson's disease. © The Author 2014. Published by Oxford University Press. All rights reserved. For Permissions, please email: journals.permissions@oup.com.
    Human Molecular Genetics 12/2014; 24(8). DOI:10.1093/hmg/ddu748 · 6.68 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Cell death and differentiation is a monthly research journal focused on the exciting field of programmed cell death and apoptosis. It provides a single accessible source of information for both scientists and clinicians, keeping them up-to-date with advances in the field. It encompasses programmed cell death, cell death induced by toxic agents, differentiation and the interrelation of these with cell proliferation.
    Cell Research 12/2014; 25(2). DOI:10.1038/cr.2014.167 · 11.98 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Cell death and differentiation is a monthly research journal focused on the exciting field of programmed cell death and apoptosis. It provides a single accessible source of information for both scientists and clinicians, keeping them up-to-date with advances in the field. It encompasses programmed cell death, cell death induced by toxic agents, differentiation and the interrelation of these with cell proliferation.
    Cell Research 11/2014; 25(2). DOI:10.1038/cr.2014.158 · 11.98 Impact Factor
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    Tao Tan · Yanfeng Zhang · Weizhi Ji
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    ABSTRACT: Spermatogonial stem cells (SSCs) play fundamental roles in spermatogenesis. Although a handful of genes have been discovered as key regulators of SSC self-renewal and differentiation, the regulatory network responsible for SSC function remains unclear. In particular, small RNA signatures during mouse spermatogenesis are not yet systematically investigated. Here, using next generation sequencing, we compared small RNA signatures of in vitro expanded SSCs, testis-derived somatic cells (Sertoli cells), developing germ cells, mouse embryonic stem cells (ESCs), and mouse mesenchymal stem cells among mouse embryonic stem cells (ESCs) to address small RNA transition during mouse spermatogenesis. The results manifest that small RNA transition during mouse spermatogenesis displays overall declined expression profiles of miRNAs and endo-siRNAs, in parallel with elevated expression profiles of piRNAs, resulting in the normal biogenesis of sperms. Meanwhile, several novel miRNAs were preferentially expressed in mouse SSCs, and further investigation of their functional annotation will allow insights into the mechanisms involved in the regulation of SSC activities. We also demonstrated the similarity of miRNA signatures between SSCs and ESCs, thereby providing a new clue to understanding the molecular basis underlying the easy conversion of SSCs to ESCs.
    BioMed Research International 07/2014; 2014. DOI:10.1155/2014/154251 · 2.71 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Recent advances in gene editing technology have introduced the potential for application of mutagenesis approaches in nonhuman primates to model human development and disease. Here we report successful TALEN-mediated mutagenesis of an X-linked, Rett syndrome (RTT) gene, methyl-CpG binding protein 2 (MECP2), in both rhesus and cynomolgus monkeys. Microinjection of MECP2-targeting TALEN plasmids into rhesus and cynomolgus zygotes leads to effective gene editing of MECP2 with no detected off-target mutagenesis. Male rhesus (2) and cynomolgous (1) fetuses carrying MECP2 mutations in various tissues including testes were miscarried during midgestation, consistent with RTT-linked male embryonic lethality in humans. One live delivery of a female cynomolgus monkey occurred after 162 days of gestation, with abundant MECP2 mutations in peripheral tissues. We conclude that TALEN-mediated mutagenesis can be an effective tool for genetic modeling of human disease in nonhuman primates.
    Cell stem cell 02/2014; 14(3). DOI:10.1016/j.stem.2014.01.018 · 22.15 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Monkeys serve as important model species for studying human diseases and developing therapeutic strategies, yet the application of monkeys in biomedical researches has been significantly hindered by the difficulties in producing animals genetically modified at the desired target sites. Here, we first applied the CRISPR/Cas9 system, a versatile tool for editing the genes of different organisms, to target monkey genomes. By coinjection of Cas9 mRNA and sgRNAs into one-cell-stage embryos, we successfully achieve precise gene targeting in cynomolgus monkeys. We also show that this system enables simultaneous disruption of two target genes (Ppar-γ and Rag1) in one step, and no off-target mutagenesis was detected by comprehensive analysis. Thus, coinjection of one-cell-stage embryos with Cas9 mRNA and sgRNAs is an efficient and reliable approach for gene-modified cynomolgus monkey generation.
    Cell 01/2014; 156(4). DOI:10.1016/j.cell.2014.01.027 · 33.12 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Serum microRNAs (miRNAs) have recently emerged as promising biomarkers for a variety of diseases including cancer and metabolic disorders. However, despite the increasing category of small RNAs, the existence and diagnostic value of other serum small RNAs are surprisingly few. In present study, by using RNA-Seq and quantitative PCR, we discovered an ancient class of tRNA-derived small RNAs (tsRNAs) abundantly, conservatively existed in the serum of a wide range of vertebrate species (from fish to human). tsRNAs are stably existed in the serum, free from serum microvesicles (exosomes). The stabilization mechanism of serum tsRNAs in an RNase-rich blood environment involves at least two layers of protection: through binding and co-existed with serum protein complexes, as well as by nucleotide modifications inheriting from their tRNA predecessors. Most importantly, serum tsRNAs showed surge upregulation during LPS-induced acute inflammation in mouse and monkey, as well as in human patients under virus infection (HBV replication phase), suggesting their active involvements in infection-induced defensive response. Overall, our data unveiled another hidden layer of serum small RNAs linking with disease condition, opening future avenues for the development of novel biomarker approaches based on analyzing serum tsRNAs.
    Journal of Molecular Cell Biology 12/2013; DOI:10.1093/jmcb/mjt052 · 8.43 Impact Factor
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    J Su · X Chen · Y Huang · W Li · J Li · K Cao · G Cao · L Zhang · F Li · A I Roberts · H Kang · P Yu · G Ren · W Ji · Y Wang · Y Shi
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    ABSTRACT: Mammalian mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) have been shown to be strongly immunosuppressive in both animal disease models and human clinical trials. We have reported that the key molecule mediating immunosuppression by MSCs is species dependent: indoleamine 2,3-dioxygenase (IDO) in human and inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS) in mouse. In the present study, we isolated MSCs from several mammalian species, each of a different genus, and investigated the involvement of IDO and iNOS during MSC-mediated immunosuppression. The characterization of MSCs from different species was by adherence to tissue culture plastic, morphology, specific marker expression, and differentiation potential. On the basis of the inducibility of IDO and iNOS by inflammatory cytokines in MSCs, the tested mammalian species fall into two distinct groups: IDO utilizers and iNOS utilizers. MSCs from monkey, pig, and human employ IDO to suppress immune responses, whereas MSCs from mouse, rat, rabbit, and hamster utilize iNOS. Interestingly, based on the limited number of species tested, the iNOS-utilizing species all belong to the phylogenetic clade, Glires. Although the evolutionary significance of this divergence is not known, we believe that this study provides critical guidance for choosing appropriate animal models for preclinical studies of MSCs.Cell Death and Differentiation advance online publication, 25 October 2013; doi:10.1038/cdd.2013.149.
    Cell Death and Differentiation 10/2013; DOI:10.1038/cdd.2013.149 · 8.39 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Defects in multiple coagulation factor deficiency protein 2 (MCFD2) are a cause of factor V and factor VIII combined deficiency type 2 (F5F8D). MCFD2 was also suggested to play an important role as an autocrine/paracrine factor in maintaining neural stem cell potential. The current work provided direct evidence that both amphibian and human MCFD2 can maintain stem cell pluripotency or stemness of rhesus monkey embryonic stem cells (rESCs) as basic fibroblast growth factor 2 (FGF-2) does. In most cases, MCFD2 had identical effects on stem cells as FGF-2. We investigated the possible mechanism of MCFD2 to support stem cell pluripotency by highlighting the effects of MCFD2 and FGF-2 on several signaling pathways in rESCs, namely MAPK, TGF-β, Wnt, and Akt, and 3 core transcriptional factors (Oct4, Nanog, and Sox2). In addition, some features of signaling pathways (MAPK and Akt), which are different from human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) and mouse embryonic stem cells (mESCs), are found in rESCs, indicating that primate ESCs have unique signaling mechanisms. These results may shed light on the biological roles of MCFD2, the conserved protein family distributed in both vertebrates and invertebrates. The ability to support stem cell self-renewal may be the general function of the conserved protein family.-Liu, H., Zhao, B., Chen, Y., You, D., Liu, R., Rong, M., Ji, W., Zheng, P., Lai, R. Multiple coagulation factor deficiency protein 2 contains the ability to support stem cell self-renewal.
    The FASEB Journal 05/2013; DOI:10.1096/fj.13-228825 · 5.48 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Evidence from epidemiological studies has proved that periconceptional use of folic acid (FA) can significantly reduce the risk of neural tube defects (NTDs). However, it is hard to explore when and how FA plays roles in neurogenesis and brain development in vivo, especially in human or other nonhuman primate systems. Primate embryonic stem cell (ESC) lines are ideal models for studying cell differentiation and organogenesis in vitro. In the present study, the roles of FA in neural differentiation were assessed in a rhesus monkey ESC system in vitro. The results showed no significant difference in the expression of neural precursor markers, such as nestin, Sox-1, or Pax-6, among neural progenitors obtained from different FA concentrations or with the FA antagonist methotrexate (MTX). However, FA depletion decreased cell proliferation and affected embryoid body (EB) and neural rosette formation, as well as neuronal but not neuroglia differentiation. Our data imply that the ESC system is a suitable model for further exploring the mechanism of how FA works in prevention of NTDs in primates.
    Journal of Neuroscience Research 07/2012; 90(7):1382-91. DOI:10.1002/jnr.23030 · 2.73 Impact Factor
  • Yongchang Chen · Yuyu Niu · Weizhi Ji
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    ABSTRACT: Nonhuman primates (NHPs) provide powerful experimental models to study human development, cognitive functions and disturbances as well as complex behavior, because of their genetic and physiological similarities to humans. Therefore, NHPs are appropriate models for the study of human diseases, such as neurodegenerative diseases including Parkinson's, Alzheimer's and Huntington's diseases, which occur as a result of genetic mutations. However, such diseases afflicting humans do not occur naturally in NHPs. So transgenic NHPs need to be established to understand the etiology of disease pathology and pathogenesis. Compared to rodent genetic models, the generation of transgenic NHPs for human diseases is inefficient, and only a transgenic monkey model for Huntington's disease has been reported. This review focuses on potential approaches and contributing factors for generating transgenic NHPs to study human diseases.
    Journal of Genetics and Genomics 06/2012; 39(6):247-51. DOI:10.1016/j.jgg.2012.04.007 · 2.92 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Much effort has been focused on improving assisted reproductive technology procedures in humans and nonhuman primates (NHPs). However, the pregnancy rate after embryo transfer (ET) has not been satisfactory, indicating that some barriers still need to be overcome in this important procedure. One of the key factors is embryo–uterine synchronicity, which is little known in NHPs. The objective of this study was to investigate the available ET time window in rhesus monkey (Macaca mulatta). Eighty-two adult female rhesus monkeys were superovulated with recombinant human FSH. Ovarian phases were identified according to estrogen (E2) and progesterone (P4) levels as well as ovarian examination by ultrasonography and laparoscopy. A total of 259 embryos were transferred by the laparoscopic approach into the oviducts of 63 adult female monkeys. Ovarian phases were divided into late follicular and early luteal phases. Similar pregnancy rates (30–36.4%) were obtained from recipients receiving ET either in their late follicular or early luteal phases, regardless of embryo developmental stages. This study indicates that the available time window for ET in rhesus monkeys is from the late follicular to early luteal phases.
    American Journal of Primatology 02/2012; 74(2):165-73. DOI:10.1002/ajp.21017 · 2.14 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Parthenogenetic embryonic stem cells are considered as a promising resource for regeneration medicine and powerful tools for developmental biology. A lot of studies have revealed that embryonic stem cells have distinct microRNA expression pattern and these microRNAs play important roles in self-renewal and pluripotency of embryonic stem cells. However, few studies concern about microRNA expression pattern in parthenogenetic embryonic stem cells, especially in non-human primate--the ideal model species for human, largely due to the limited rhesus monkey parthenogenetic embryonic stem cells (rpESCs) available and lack of systematic analysis of the basics of rpESCs. Here, we derived two novel rpESCs lines and characterized their microRNA signature by Solexa deep sequencing. These two novel rpESCs shared many properties with other primate ESCs, including expression of pluripotent markers, capacity to generate derivatives representative of all three germ layers in vivo and in vitro, maintaining of euploid karyotype even after long culture. Additionally, lack of some paternally expressed imprinted genes and identity of Single-nucleotide Polymorphism (SNP) compare to their oocyte donors support their parthenogenesis origin. By characterizing their microRNA signature, we identified 91 novel microRNAs, except those are also detected in other primate ESCs. Moreover, these two novel rpESCs display a unique microRNA signature, comparing to their biparental counterpart ESCs. Then we analyzed X chromosome status in these two novel rpESCs; results suggested that one of them possesses two active X chromosomes, the other possesses only one active X chromosome liking biparental female embryonic stem cells. Taken together, our novel rpESCs provide a new alternative to existing rhesus monkey embryonic stem cells, microRNA information expands rhesus monkey microRNA data and may help understanding microRNA roles in pluripotency and parthenogenesis.
    PLoS ONE 09/2011; 6(9):e25052. DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0025052 · 3.23 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The objective was to examine the effect of seminal plasma on cryopreservation of sperm from rhesus macaques. Sperm cryosurvival was evaluated by sperm motility and acrosomal integrity. Compared with slow cooling (-0.4 C/min) from 37 C (body temperature) to 4 C, rapid cooling (-16 C/min) caused cold shock in rhesus macaque sperm. The cryosurvival of sperm was decreased regardless of the presence or absence of seminal plasma (P<0.05). However, the presence of seminal plasma during cold shock at a rapid cooling rate improved sperm motility and acrosomal integrity in individual monkeys. Male-to-male variation in sperm cryosurvival was observed after cryopreservation (P<0.05), and the presence of seminal plasma during sperm cryopreservation improved sperm motility and acrosomal integrity in individual monkeys (P<0.05). Furthermore, by adding seminal plasma from monkeys with good sperm cryosurvival to sperm freezing extender, the frozen-thawed motility and acrosomal integrity of sperm from monkey with poor cryosurvival were improved (P<0.05). The present study indicated that seminal fluid is beneficial to sperm undergoing cold shock or cryopreservation in individual monkeys. The cryosurvival of sperm from rhesus macaques with poor sperm freezability could be improved by the presence of seminal plasma from males with good sperm cryosurvival. This finding provides a useful method for genetic preservation in this important species.
    Journal of Reproduction and Development 09/2011; 57(6):737-43. DOI:10.1262/jrd.11-056N · 1.64 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Ethylene glycol (EG) has been speculated to be the most appropriate penetrating cryoprotectant for cryopreservation of rhesus macaque sperm due to its higher permeability coefficient. The present study aimed to determine the optimal EG concentration, freezing rate and holding time in liquid nitrogen (LN(2)) vapor for rhesus sperm cryopreservation. Among six tested EG concentrations (0, 0.18, 0.35, 0.7, 1.4 and 2.1 M), 0.7 M EG showed the most effective cryoprotection (P<0.05). Sperm frozen with 0.7 M EG at -183°C/min showed higher post-thaw motility than sperm frozen at -10, -67 or -435°C/min (P<0.05). Sperm frozen in LN(2) vapor at -183°C/min with 0.7 M EG and a holding time of 10 min showed higher post-thaw motility compared with a holding time of 5 or 15 min (P<0.05). The function of sperm cryopreserved at the optimized EG concentration, freezing rate and holding time was further evaluated by in vitro fertilization. Of the 36 oocytes collected from gonadotropin-stimulated rhesus macaques, 61.1% were fertilized, and 61.1, 44.4 and 36.1% of the oocytes developed to 2 cells, morulae and blastocysts, respectively. Our findings provide an alternative penetrating cryoprotectant and optimal protocol for genetic preservation purposes in this important species.
    Journal of Veterinary Medical Science 06/2011; 73(6):717-23. DOI:10.1292/jvms.10-0398 · 0.88 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: MicroRNAs (miRNAs) play important roles in embryonic stem cell (ESC) self-renewal and pluripotency. Numerous studies have revealed human and mouse ESC miRNA profiles. As a model for human-related study, the rhesus macaque is ideal for delineating the regulatory mechanisms of miRNAs in ESCs. However, studies on rhesus macaque (r)ESCs are lacking due to limited rESC availability and a need for systematic analyses of fundamental rESC characteristics. We established three rESC lines and profiled microRNA using Solexa sequencing resulting in 304 known and 66 novel miRNAs. MiRNA profiles were highly conserved between rESC lines and predicted target genes were significantly enriched in differentiation pathways. Further analysis of the miRNA-target network indicated that gene expression regulated by miRNAs was negatively correlated to their evolutionary rate in rESCs. Moreover, a cross-species comparison revealed an overall conservation of miRNA expression patterns between human, mouse and rhesus macaque ESCs. However, we identified three miRNA clusters (miR-467, the miRNA cluster in the imprinted Dlk1-Dio3 region and C19MC) that showed clear interspecies differences. rESCs share a unique miRNA set that may play critical roles in self-renewal and pluripotency. MiRNA expression patterns are generally conserved between species. However, species and/or lineage specific miRNA regulation changed during evolution.
    BMC Genomics 05/2011; 12(1):276. DOI:10.1186/1471-2164-12-276 · 4.04 Impact Factor

Publication Stats

1k Citations
404.47 Total Impact Points

Institutions

  • 2014
    • Kunming University of Science and Technology
      Yün-nan, Yunnan, China
  • 2000–2013
    • Kunming Institute of Zoology CAS
      Yün-nan, Yunnan, China
  • 2005–2011
    • Chinese Academy of Sciences
      • State Key Laboratory of Reproductive Biology
      Peping, Beijing, China
  • 2001
    • University of Wisconsin–Madison
      Madison, Wisconsin, United States