Among the three human monocyte subsets, intermediate CD14++CD16+ monocytes have been characterized as particularly proinflammatory cells in experimental studies and as potential biomarkers of cardiovascular risk in clinical cohorts. To further substantiate the distinct role of intermediate monocytes within human monocyte heterogeneity, we assessed subset-specific expression of miRNAs as central epigenetic regulators of gene expression. We hypothesized that intermediate monocytes have a distinct miRNA profile compared to classical and non-classical monocytes. By using small RNA-seq we analyzed 662 miRNAs in the three monocyte subsets. We identified 38 miRNAs that are differentially expressed in intermediate monocytes compared to both classical and non-classical monocytes with a p value of <10−10, of which two miRNAs – miR-6087 (upregulated) and miR‐150-5p (downregulated) – differed in their expression more than ten-fold. Pathway analysis of the 38 differentially expressed miRNAs linked intermediate monocytes to distinct biological processes such as gene regulation, cell differentiation, toll-like receptor signaling as well as antigen processing and presentation. Moreover, differentially expressed miRNAs were connected to those genes that we previously identified as markers of intermediate monocytes. In aggregation, we provide first genome-wide miRNA data in the context of monocyte heterogeneity, which substantiate the concept of monocyte trichotomy in human immunity. The identification of miRNAs that are specific for intermediate monocytes may allow to develop strategies, which particularly target this cell population while sparing the other two subsets.
- Monocyte subsets