Background: MicroRNAs (miRNAs) play important roles in regulating the expression of protein-coding genes by directing the degradation and/or repression of the translation of gene transcripts. Growing evidence shows that miRNAs are indispensable player in organismal development with its regulatory role in the growth and differentiation of cell lineages. However, the roles of miRNA-mediated regulation in environmental adaptation of organisms are largely unknown. To examine this potential regulatory capability, we characterized microRNAomes from the brain of zebrafish raised under normal (28 °C) and cold-acclimated (10 °C, 10 days) conditions using Solexa sequencing. We then examined the expression pattern of the protein-coding genes under these two conditions with Affymetrix Zebrafish Genome Array profiling. The potential roles of the microRNAome in the transcriptomic cold regulation in the zebrafish brain were investigated by various statistical analyses.
Results: Among the total 214 unique, mature zebrafish miRNAs deposited on the miRBase website (release 16), 175 were recovered in this study. In addition, we identified 399 novel, mature miRNAs using multiple miRNA prediction methods. We defined a set of 25 miRNAs differentially expressed under the cold and normal conditions and predicted the molecular functions and biological processes that they involve through Gene Ontology (GO) annotation of their target genes. On the other hand, microarray analysis showed that genes related to mRNA processing and response to stress were overrepresented among the up-regulated genes in cold-stress, but are not directly corresponding to any of the GO molecular functions and biological processes predicted from the differential miRNAs. Using several statistical models including a novel, network-based approach, we found that miRNAs identified in this study, either individually or together, and either directly or indirectly (i.e., mediated by transcription factors), only make minor contribution to the change in gene expression patterns under the low-temperature condition.
Conclusions: Our results suggest that the cold-stress response of mRNA expression may be governed mainly through regulatory modes other than miRNA-mediated regulation. MiRNAs in animal brains might act more as developmental regulators than thermal adaptability regulators.
© 2011 Yang et al; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.