Gender and Obesity Specific MicroRNA Expression in Adipose Tissue from Lean and Obese Pigs

PLoS One. 2015 Jul 29;10(7):e0131650. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0131650. eCollection 2015.


Obesity is a complex condition that increases the risk of life threatening diseases such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Studying the gene regulation of obesity is important for understanding the molecular mechanisms behind the obesity derived diseases and may lead to better intervention and treatment plans. MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are short non-coding RNAs regulating target mRNA by binding to their 3'UTR. They are involved in numerous biological processes and diseases, including obesity. In this study we use a mixed breed pig model designed for obesity studies to investigate differentially expressed miRNAs in subcutaneous adipose tissue by RNA sequencing (RNAseq). Both male and female pigs are included to explore gender differences. The RNAseq study shows that the most highly expressed miRNAs are in accordance with comparable studies in pigs and humans. A total of six miRNAs are differentially expressed in subcutaneous adipose tissue between the lean and obese group of pigs, and in addition gender specific significant differential expression is observed for a number of miRNAs. The differentially expressed miRNAs have been verified using qPCR. The results of these studies in general confirm the trends found by RNAseq. Mir-9 and mir-124a are significantly differentially expressed with large fold changes in subcutaneous adipose tissue between lean and obese pigs. Mir-9 is more highly expressed in the obese pigs with a fold change of 10 and a p-value < 0.001. Mir-124a is more highly expressed in the obese pigs with a fold change of 114 and a p-value < 0.001. In addition, mir-124a is significantly higher expressed in abdominal adipose tissue in male pigs with a fold change of 119 and a p-value < 0.05. Both miRNAs are also significantly higher expressed in the liver of obese male pigs where mir-124a has a fold change of 12 and mir-9 has a fold change of 1.6, both with p-values < 0.05.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Regulation*
  • Male
  • MicroRNAs / biosynthesis*
  • MicroRNAs / genetics
  • Obesity / genetics
  • Obesity / metabolism*
  • Sex Characteristics*
  • Subcutaneous Fat, Abdominal / metabolism*
  • Swine


  • MicroRNAs

Grants and funding

The project was supported by a grant from the Ministry for Science and Technology to the “UNIK Project for Food Fitness and Pharma for Health”, by the Danish Independent Research Council (DFF – 1335-00127), and by the Danish Council for Strategic Research (Programme Commission on Strategic Growth Technologies). Innovation Fund Denmark (CMJM, MF, JG) and Danish Center for Scientific Computing (DCSC, DeIC) (JG).