Background: The morphogenesis of the cerebral cortex depends on the precise control of gene expression during development. Small non-coding RNAs, including microRNAs and other groups of small RNAs, play profound roles in various physiological and pathological processes via their regulation of gene expression. A systematic analysis of the expression profile of small non-coding RNAs in developing cortical tissues is important for clarifying the gene regulation networks mediating key developmental events during cortical morphogenesis.
Results: Global profiling of the small RNA transcriptome was carried out in rat cerebral cortex from E10 till P28 using next-generation sequencing technique. We found an extraordinary degree of developmental stage-specific expression of a large group of microRNAs. A group of novel microRNAs with functional hints were identified, and brain-enriched expression and Dicer-dependent production of high-abundant novel microRNAs were validated. Profound editing of known microRNAs at "seed" sequence and flanking sequence was observed, with much higher editing events detected at late postnatal stages than embryonic stages, suggesting the necessity of microRNA editing for the fine tuning of gene expression during the formation of complicated synaptic connections at postnatal stages.
Conclusion: Our analysis reveals extensive regulation of microRNAs during cortical development. The dataset described here will be a valuable resource for clarifying new regulatory mechanisms for cortical development and diseases and will greatly contribute to our understanding of the divergence, modification, and function of microRNAs.