Open Access Open Badges Research article

A comprehensive microRNA expression profile of the backfat tissue from castrated and intact full-sib pair male pigs

Ying Bai1, Jin-Ming Huang12, Gang Liu1, Ji-Bin Zhang1, Jian-Ying Wang2, Cheng-Kun Liu1 and Mei-Ying Fang1*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Animal Genetics and Breeding, National Engineering Laboratory for Animal Breeding, MOA Laboratory of Animal Genetics and Breeding, College of Animal Science and Technology, China Agricultural University, Beijing 100193, P. R. China

2 Shandong Academy of Agricultural Sciences, Jinan 250131, P. R. China

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BMC Genomics 2014, 15:47  doi:10.1186/1471-2164-15-47

Published: 20 January 2014



It is widely known that castration has a significant effect on the accumulation of adipose tissue. microRNAs (miRNAs) are known to be involved in fat deposition and to be regulated by the androgen-induced androgen receptor (AR). However, there is little understanding of the relationship between miRNAs and fat deposition after castration. In this study, the high-throughput SOLiD sequencing approach was used to identify and characterize miRNA expression in backfat from intact and castrated full-sib male 23-week-old pigs. The patterns of adipogenesis and fat deposition were compared between castrated and intact male pigs.


A total of 366 unique miRNA genes were identified, comprising 174 known pre-miRNAs and 192 novel pre-miRNAs. One hundred and sixty-seven pre-miRNAs were common to both castrated (F3) and intact (F4) male pig small RNA libraries. The novel pre-miRNAs encoded 153 miRNAs/miRNA*s and 141 miRNAs/miRNA*s in the F3 and F4 libraries, respectively. One hundred and seventy-seven miRNAs, including 45 up- and 132 down-regulated, had more than 2-fold differential expression between the castrated and intact male pigs (p-value < 0.001). Thirty-five miRNAs were further selected, based on the expression abundance and differentiation between the two libraries, to predict their targets in KEGG pathways. KEGG pathway analyses suggested that miRNAs differentially expressed between the castrated and intact male pigs are involved in proliferation, apoptosis, differentiation, migration, adipose tissue development and other important biological processes. The expression patterns of eight arbitrarily selected miRNAs were validated by stem-loop reverse-transcription quantitative polymerase chain reaction. These data confirmed the expression tendency observed with SOLiD sequencing. miRNA isomiRs and mirtrons were also investigated in this study. Mirtrons are a recently described category of miRNA relying on splicing rather than processing by the microprocessor complex to generate the RNAi pathway. The functions of miRNAs important for regulating fat deposition were also investigated in this study.


This study expands the number of fat-deposition-related miRNAs in pig. The results also indicate that castration can significantly affect the expression patterns of fat-related miRNAs. The differentially expressed miRNAs may play important roles in fat deposition after castration.

Male pig; MicroRNA; Fat deposition; Castration