MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are key regulators in various physiological and pathological processes via post-transcriptional regulation of gene expression. The honey bee (Apis mellifera) is a key model for highly social species, and its complex social behaviour can be interpreted theoretically as changes in gene regulation, in which miRNAs are thought to be involved. We used the SOLiD sequencing system to identify the repertoire of miRNAs in the honey bee by sequencing a mixed small RNA library from different developmental stages. We obtained a total of 36,796,459 raw sequences; of which 5,491,100 short sequences were fragments of mRNA and other noncoding RNAs (ncRNA), and 1,759,346 reads mapped to the known miRNAs. We predicted 267 novel honey bee miRNAs representing 380,182 short reads, including eight miRNAs of other insects in 14,107,583 genome-mapped sequences. We verified 50 of them using stem-loop reverse-transcription PCR (RT-PCR), in which 35 yielded PCR products. Cross-species analyses showed 81 novel miRNAs with homologues in other insects, suggesting that they were authentic miRNAs and have similar functions. The results of this study provide a basis for studies of the miRNA-modulating networks in development and some intriguing phenomena such as caste differentiation in A. mellifera.
© 2010 The Authors. Insect Molecular Biology © 2010 The Royal Entomological Society.