Although many drugs and environmental chemicals are teratogenic, the mechanisms by which most toxicants disrupt embryonic development are not well understood. MicroRNAs, single-stranded RNA molecules of ~22 nt that regulate protein expression by inhibiting mRNA translation and promoting mRNA sequestration or degradation, are important regulators of a variety of cellular processes including embryonic development and cellular differentiation. Recent studies have demonstrated that exposure to xenobiotics can alter microRNA expression and contribute to the mechanisms by which environmental chemicals disrupt embryonic development. In this study we tested the hypothesis that developmental exposure to 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (TCDD), a well-known teratogen, alters microRNA expression during zebrafish development. We exposed zebrafish embryos to DMSO (0.1%) or TCDD (5nM) for 1h at 30hours post fertilization (hpf) and measured microRNA expression using several methods at 36 and 60hpf. TCDD caused strong induction of CYP1A at 36hpf (62-fold) and 60hpf (135-fold) as determined by real-time RT-PCR, verifying the effectiveness of the exposure. MicroRNA expression profiles were determined using microarrays (Agilent and Exiqon), next-generation sequencing (SOLiD), and real-time RT-PCR. The two microarray platforms yielded results that were similar but not identical; both showed significant changes in expression of miR-451, 23a, 23b, 24 and 27e at 60hpf. Multiple analyses were performed on the SOLiD sequences yielding a total of 16 microRNAs as differentially expressed by TCDD in zebrafish embryos. However, miR-27e was the only microRNA to be identified as differentially expressed by all three methods (both microarrays, SOLiD sequencing, and real-time RT-PCR). These results suggest that TCDD exposure causes modest changes in expression of microRNAs, including some (miR-451, 23a, 23b, 24 and 27e) that are critical for hematopoiesis and cardiovascular development.
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