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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

MicroRNA expression profiling during the life cycle of the silkworm (Bombyx mori)

Shiping Liu1, Liang Zhang2, Qibin Li34, Ping Zhao1, Jun Duan5, Daojun Cheng1, Zhonghuai Xiang1 and Qingyou Xia15*

Author Affiliations

1 The Key Sericultural Laboratory of Agricultural Ministry, College of Biotechnology, Southwest University, Chongqing 400715, PR China

2 National Engineering Center for Beijing Biochip Technology, Life Science Parkway, Changping District, Beijing 102206, PR China

3 Beijing Genomics Institute at Shenzhen, Shenzhen 518083, PR China

4 Beijing Institute of Genomics, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100000, PR China

5 Institute of Agricultural and Life Sciences, Chongqing University, Chongqing, 400030, PR China

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BMC Genomics 2009, 10:455  doi:10.1186/1471-2164-10-455

Published: 28 September 2009



MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are expressed by a wide range of eukaryotic organisms, and function in diverse biological processes. Numerous miRNAs have been identified in Bombyx mori, but the temporal expression profiles of miRNAs corresponding to each stage transition over the entire life cycle of the silkworm remain to be established. To obtain a comprehensive overview of the correlation between miRNA expression and stage transitions, we performed a whole-life test and subsequent stage-by-stage examinations on nearly one hundred miRNAs in the silkworm.


Our results show that miRNAs display a wide variety of expression profiles over the whole life of the silkworm, including continuous expression from embryo to adult (miR-184), up-regulation over the entire life cycle (let-7 and miR-100), down-regulation over the entire life cycle (miR-124), expression associated with embryogenesis (miR-29 and miR-92), up-regulation from early 3rd instar to pupa (miR-275), and complementary pulses in expression between miR-34b and miR-275. Stage-by-stage examinations revealed further expression patterns, such as emergence at specific time-points during embryogenesis and up-regulation of miRNA groups in late embryos (miR-1 and bantam), expression associated with stage transition between instar and molt larval stages (miR-34b), expression associated with silk gland growth and spinning activity (miR-274), continuous high expression from the spinning larval to pupal and adult stages (miR-252 and miR-31a), a coordinate expression trough in day 3 pupae of both sexes (miR-10b and miR-281), up-regulation in pupal metamorphosis of both sexes (miR-29b), and down-regulation in pupal metamorphosis of both sexes (miR-275).


We present the full-scale expression profiles of miRNAs throughout the life cycle of Bombyx mori. The whole-life expression profile was further investigated via stage-by-stage analysis. Our data provide an important resource for more detailed functional analysis of miRNAs in this animal.