Host-pathogen interactions are complex and influenced by host genetic and epigenetic modifications. Recently, the significance of microRNAs (miRNAs) in pathogenic infection and the regulation of immune response has been highlighted. However, information on miRNAs' role in the course of inflammation is still very limited in small ruminants. The present study was intended to identify changes in the expression of circulatory miRNAs post-lipopolysaccharide (LPS)-challenge. In this study, young ewes (n = 18) were challenged with Escherichia coli LPS (400 ng/kg i.v.) and blood samples were collected for serum miRNA isolation at two-time points; prior to challenge (T0), and 4 h (T4) post-challenge, reflecting the peak cortisol response. A total of 91 miRNAs were profiled, including 84 miRNAs on a commercial ovine miRNA-PCR array, and seven individual miRNAs. Forty five miRNAs were differentially expressed (DE) with 35 being up-regulated (Fold regulation, FR > 2) and 10 being down-regulated (FR < 1, p < 0.05) at T4. Among the up-regulated miRNAs, 14 were significantly (p < 0.05) induced, including oar-miRs: 369-3p, 495-3p, 376a-3p, 543-3p, 668-3p, 329a-3p, 655-3p, 411a-5p, and 154a-3p, which were located on ovine chromosome 18 forming four miRNA clusters within 10 kb. The elevated miRNAs belonged to different functional classes, playing roles in activating the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis; increasing cell survival and differentiation; and inducing inflammatory responses and targeted PI3K-Akt and MAPK signaling and chemokine signaling pathways. In summary, these results reveal the dynamic nature of ovine serum miRNAs during LPS-induced stress and highlight the potential role of identified miRNA-clusters on chromosome 18 to understand the regulation of the acute-phase response. Some of these identified circulating miRNAs may also serve as stress biomarkers for livestock in the future.
Keywords: expression; lambs; lipopolysaccharide; microRNA; serum.