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Open Access Research article

MicroRNAs in bovine adipogenesis: genomic context, expression and function

Josue Moura Romao1, Weiwu Jin1, Maolong He2, Tim McAllister2 and Le Luo Guan1*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Agricultural, Food and Nutritional Science, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

2 Lethbridge Research Centre, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada

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BMC Genomics 2014, 15:137  doi:10.1186/1471-2164-15-137

Published: 18 February 2014

Abstract

Background

MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are small non-coding RNAs found to regulate several biological processes including adipogenesis. Understanding adipose tissue regulation is critical for beef cattle as fat is an important determinant of beef quality and nutrient value. This study analyzed the association between genomic context characteristics of miRNAs with their expression and function in bovine adipose tissue. Twenty-four subcutaneous adipose tissue biopsies were obtained from eight British-continental crossbred steers at 3 different time points. Total RNA was extracted and miRNAs were profiled using a miRNA microarray with expression further validated by qRT-PCR.

Results

A total of 224 miRNAs were detected of which 155 were expressed in all steers (n = 8), and defined as the core miRNAs of bovine subcutaneous adipose tissue. Core adipose miRNAs varied in terms of genomic location (59.5% intergenic, 38.7% intronic, 1.2% exonic, and 0.6% mirtron), organization (55.5% non-clustered and 44.5% clustered), and conservation (49% highly conserved, 14% conserved and 37% poorly conserved). Clustered miRNAs and highly conserved miRNAs were more highly expressed (p < 0.05) and had more predicted targets than non-clustered or less conserved miRNAs (p < 0.001). A total of 34 miRNAs were coordinately expressed, being part of six identified relevant networks. Two intronic miRNAs (miR-33a and miR-1281) were confirmed to have coordinated expression with their host genes, transcriptional factor SREBF2 and EP300 (a transcriptional co-activator of transcriptional factor C/EBPα), respectively which are involved in lipid metabolism, suggesting these miRNAs may also play a role in regulation of bovine lipid metabolism/adipogenesis. Furthermore, a total of 17 bovine specific miRNAs were predicted to be involved in the regulation of energy balance in adipose tissue.

Conclusions

These findings improve our understanding on the behavior of miRNAs in the regulation of bovine adipogenesis and fat metabolism as it reveals that miRNA expression patterns and functions are associated with miRNA genomic location, organization and conservation.

Keywords:
Adipogenesis; Adipose tissue; Bovine; Fat metabolism; Genomic context; microRNA; Cluster; Co-expression; Species specific