MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are endogenous small RNA molecules involved in the post-transcriptional regulation of protein expression by binding to the mRNA of target genes. They are key regulators in teleost development, maintenance of tissue-specific functions, and immune responses. Lumpfish (Cyclopterus lumpus) is becoming an emergent aquaculture species as it has been utilized as a cleaner fish to biocontrol sea lice (e.g., Lepeophtheirus salmonis) infestation in the Atlantic Salmon (Salmo salar) aquaculture. The lumpfish miRNAs repertoire is unknown. This study identified and characterized miRNA encoding genes in lumpfish from three developmental stages (adult, embryos, and larvae). A total of 16 samples from six different adult lumpfish organs (spleen, liver, head kidney, brain, muscle, and gill), embryos, and larvae were individually small RNA sequenced. Altogether, 391 conserved miRNA precursor sequences (discovered in the majority of teleost fish species reported in miRbase), eight novel miRNA precursor sequences (so far only discovered in lumpfish), and 443 unique mature miRNAs were identified. Transcriptomics analysis suggested organ-specific and age-specific expression of miRNAs (e.g., miR-122-1-5p specific of the liver). Most of the miRNAs found in lumpfish are conserved in teleost and higher vertebrates, suggesting an essential and common role across teleost and higher vertebrates. This study is the first miRNA characterization of lumpfish that provides the reference miRNAome for future functional studies.
Keywords: RT-qPCR; conserved miRNA; high-throughput sequencing; lumpfish; novel miRNA.