Open Access Research article

Characterization and differential expression of microRNAs in the ovaries of pregnant and non-pregnant goats (Capra hircus)

Xiao-Dong Zhang12, Yun-Hai Zhang12, Ying-Hui Ling12, Ya Liu12, Hong-Guo Cao12, Zong-Jun Yin12, Jian-Ping Ding12* and Xiao-Rong Zhang12*

Author Affiliations

1 Anhui Provincial Laboratory of Local Animal Genetic Resources Conservation and Biobreeding, No. 130 Changjiang west road, Hefei 230036, P. R. China

2 College of Animal Science and Technology, Anhui Agricultural University, No. 130 Changjiang west road, Hefei 230036, P. R. China

For all author emails, please log on.

BMC Genomics 2013, 14:157  doi:10.1186/1471-2164-14-157

Published: 7 March 2013



Ovarian follicular development and hormone secretion are complex and coordinated biological processes which will usually be altered during pregnancy. Ovarian function is tightly regulated by a multitude of genes, and also by some specific miRNAs. It is necessary to identify the differentially expressed miRNAs in the ovaries of pregnant and non-pregnant mammals, in order to further understand the role of miRNA-mediated post-transcriptional regulation in mammalian reproduction. Here, we performed a comprehensive search for hircine miRNAs using two small RNA sequencing libraries prepared from the ovaries of pregnant and non-pregnant goats.


617 conserved and 7 putative novel miRNAs were identified in the hircine ovaries. A total of 471 conserved miRNAs (76.34%) were co-expressed in both pregnant and non-pregnant libraries, and 90 pregnancy-specific and 56 non-pregnancy-specific conserved miRNAs were identified. Additionally, 407 unique miRNAs (65.96%) were significantly differentially expressed in the pregnant and non-pregnant libraries, of which 294 were upregulated and 113 were downregulated in the pregnant library compared to the non-pregnant library. Further analysis showed that miR-143 was predicted to bind to the target sequences of Frizzled-6 and -3 receptor genes in the Wnt/beta-catenin signaling pathway, and let-7b may target the Activin receptor I and Smad 2/3 genes in the TGF-beta signaling pathway. The expression level of 5 randomly selected miRNAs were analyzed by quantitative real-time PCR (q-PCR), and the results demonstrated that the expression patterns were consistent with the Solexa sequencing results.


The identification and characterization of differentially expressed miRNAs in the ovaries of pregnant and non-pregnant goats provides important information on the role of miRNA in the regulation of the ovarian development and function. This data will be helpful to facilitate studies on the regulation of miRNAs during mammalian reproduction.

MicroRNA; Solexa sequencing; Ovary; Anhui white goat