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Open Access Highly Accessed Open Badges Research article

Characterization of microRNA expression in bovine adipose tissues: a potential regulatory mechanism of subcutaneous adipose tissue development

Weiwu Jin1, Michael V Dodson2, Stephen S Moore1, John A Basarab3 and Le Luo Guan1*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Agricultural, Food and Nutritional Science, University of Alberta, Edmonton, AB, T6G2P5, Canada

2 Department of Animal Sciences, Washington State University, PO Box 646310, Pullman, Washington, 99164 USA

3 Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development, Lacombe Research Centre, Lacombe, AB, T4L1W1, Canada

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BMC Molecular Biology 2010, 11:29  doi:10.1186/1471-2199-11-29

Published: 27 April 2010



MicroRNAs (miRNAs), a family of small non-coding RNA molecules, appear to regulate animal lipid metabolism and preadipocyte conversion to form lipid-assimilating adipocytes (i.e. adipogenesis). However, no miRNA to date has been reported to modulate adipogenesis and lipid deposition in beef cattle.


The expression patterns of 89 miRNAs including four bovine specific miRNAs in subcutaneous adipose tissues from three groups of crossbred steers differing in backfat thickness were compared using qRT-PCR analysis. Eighty-six miRNAs were detectable in all samples, with 42 miRNAs differing among crossbreds (P < 0.05) and 15 miRNAs differentially expressed between tissues with high and low backfat thickness (P < 0.05). The expression levels of 18 miRNAs were correlated with backfat thickness (P < 0.05). The miRNA most differentially expressed and the most strongly associated with backfat thickness was miR-378, with a 1.99-fold increase in high backfat thickness tissues (r = 0.72).


MiRNA expression patterns differed significantly in response to host genetic components. Approximately 20% of the miRNAs in this study were identified as being correlated with backfat thickness. This result suggests that miRNAs may play a regulatory role in white adipose tissue development in beef animals.