Identification of circRNAs linked to Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias

INTRODUCTION: Circular RNAs (circRNAs) exhibit selective expression in the brain and differential regulation in Alzheimer’s disease (AD). To explore the role of circRNAs in AD, we investigated how circRNA expression varies between brain regions and with AD-related stress in human neuronal precursor cells (NPCs).
METHODS: Ribosomal RNA-depleted hippocampus RNA-sequencing data were generated. Differentially regulated circRNAs in AD and related dementias were detected using CIRCexplorer3 and limma. circRNA results were validated using quantitative real-time PCR of cDNA from the brain and NPCs.
RESULTS: We identified 48 circRNAs that were significantly associated with AD. We observed that circRNA expression differed by dementia subtype. Using NPCs, we demonstrated that exposure to oligomeric tau elicits downregulation of circRNA similar to that observed in the AD brain.
DISCUSSION: Our study shows that differential expression of circRNA can vary by dementia subtype and brain region. We also demonstrated that circRNAs can be regulated by AD-linked neuronal stress independently from their cognate linear messenger RNAs (mRNAs).