Motor neuron-expressed microRNAs 218 and their enhancers are nested within introns of Slit2/3 genes

Beena Punnamoottil, Silke Rinkwitz, Jean Giacomotto, Adam J. Svahn, Thomas S. Becker*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


miR218-1 and miR218-2 are embedded in introns of SLIT2 and SLIT3, respectively, an arrangement conserved throughout vertebrate genomes. Both miR218 genes are predicted to be transcribed in the same orientation as their host genes and were assumed to be spliced from Slit2/3 primary transcripts. In zebrafish miR218 is active in cranial nerve motor nuclei and spinal cord motor neurons, while slit2 and slit3 are expressed predominantly in the midline. This differential expression pattern suggested independent regulation of miR218 genes by distinct enhancers. We tested conserved noncoding elements for regulatory activity by reporter gene transgenesis in zebrafish. Two human enhancers, 76 kb and 130 kb distant from miR218-2, were identified that drove GFP expression in zebrafish in an almost complete miR218 expression pattern. In the zebrafish slit3 locus, two enhancers with identical activity were discovered. In human SLIT2 one enhancer 52 kb upstream of miR218-1 drove an expression pattern very similar to the enhancers of miR218-2. This establishes that miR218-1/-2 regulatory units are nested within SLIT2/3 and that they are duplicates of an ancestral single locus. Due to the strong activity of the enhancers, unique transgenic lines were created that facilitate morphological and gene functional genetic experiments in motor neurons.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)321-328
Number of pages8
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2015
Externally publishedYes


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