Background: microRNAs (miRNAs) have been reported as key regulators at post-transcriptional level in eukaryotic cells. In insects, most of the studies have focused in holometabolans while only recently two hemimetabolans (Locusta migratoria and Acyrthosiphon pisum) have had their miRNAs identified. Therefore, the study of the miRNAs of the evolutionarily basal hemimetabolan Blattella germanica may provide valuable insights on the structural and functional evolution of miRNAs.
Methodology/principal findings: Small RNA libraries of the cockroach B. germanica were built from the whole body of the last instar nymph, and the adult ovaries. The high throughput Solexa sequencing resulted in approximately 11 and 8 million reads for the whole-body and ovaries, respectively. Bioinformatic analyses identified 38 known miRNAs as well as 11 known miRNA*s. We also found 70 miRNA candidates conserved in other insects and 170 candidates specific to B. germanica. The positive correlation between Solexa data and real-time quantitative PCR showed that number of reads can be used as a quantitative approach. Five novel miRNA precursors were identified and validated by PCR and sequencing. Known miRNAs and novel candidates were also validated by decreasing levels of their expression in dicer-1 RNAi knockdown individuals. The comparison of the two libraries indicates that whole-body nymph contain more known miRNAs than ovaries, whereas the adult ovaries are enriched with novel miRNA candidates.
Conclusions/significance: Our study has identified many known miRNAs and novel miRNA candidates in the basal hemimetabolan insect B. germanica, and most of the specific sequences were found in ovaries. Deep sequencing data reflect miRNA abundance and dicer-1 RNAi assay is shown to be a reliable method for validation of novel miRNAs.