The present study focused on the role of microRNA-139-5p (miRNA-139-5p) in the regulation of basal tone in internal anal sphincter (IAS). Applying genome-wide miRNA microarrays on the phenotypically distinct smooth muscle cells (SMCs) within the rat anorectrum, we identified miRNA-139-5p as differentially expressed RNA repressor with highest expression in the purely phasic smooth muscle of anococcygeus (ASM) vs. the truly tonic smooth muscle of IAS. This pattern of miRNA-139-5p expression, previously shown to target ROCK2, was validated by target prediction using ingenuity pathway (IPA) and by qPCR analyses. Immunoblotting, immunocytochemistry (ICC), and functional assays using IAS tissues and cells subjected to overexpression/knockdown of miRNA-139-5p confirmed the inverse relationship between miRNA-139-5p and ROCK2 expressions/IAS tone. Overexpression of miRNA-139-5p caused a decrease, while knockdown by anti-miRNA-139-5p caused an increase in the IAS tone; these tissue contractile responses were confirmed by single-cell contraction using magnetic twisting cytometry (MTC). These findings suggest miRNA-139-5p is capable of significantly influencing the phenotypic tonicity in smooth muscle via ROCK2: a lack of tone in ASM may be associated with the suppression of ROCK2 by high expression of miRNA-139-5p, whereas basal IAS tone may be associated with the persistence of ROCK2 due to low expression of miRNA-139-5p.
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