Circular RNA mediated gene regulation in chronic diabetic complications
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Chronic diabetic complications affect multiple organs causing widespread organ damage. Although there are some commonalities, the phenotype of such changes show tissue specific variation. Given this, we examined whether differences in circular RNA (circRNA) mediated gene regulatory mechanisms contribute to changes in gene expression at the basal level and in diabetes. CircRNAs are single-stranded RNA with covalently closed loop structures and act as miRNA sponges, factors of RNA splicing, scaffolding for proteins, regulators of transcription, and modulators of the expression of parental genes, among other roles. We examined heart and retinal tissue from Streptozotocin-induced diabetic mice with established diabetes related tissue damage and tissue from non-diabetic controls. A custom array analysis was performed and the data were analysed. Two major circRNA mediated processes were uniquely upregulated in diabetic heart tissue, namely, positive regulation of endothelial cell migration and regulation of mitochondria: mitochondrial electron transport. In the retina, circRNAs regulating extracellular matrix protein production and endothelial to mesenchymal transition (EndMT) were found to be upregulated. The current study identified regulatory and potential pathogenetic roles of specific circRNA in diabetic retinopathy and cardiomyopathy. Understanding such novel mechanisms, may in the future, be useful to develop RNA based treatment strategies.