Differential Expression of miRNAs and Their Predicted Target Genes Indicates That Gene Expression in Atlantic Salmon Gill Is Post-Transcriptionally Regulated by miRNAs in the Parr-Smolt Transformation and Adaptation to Sea Water

Int J Mol Sci. 2022 Aug 8;23(15):8831. doi: 10.3390/ijms23158831.


Smoltification (parr-smolt transformation) is a complex developmental process consisting of developmental changes that lead to remodeling of the Atlantic salmon gill. Here, the expression changes of miRNAs and mRNAs were studied by small-RNA sequencing and microarray analysis, respectively, to identify miRNAs and their predicted targets associated with smoltification and subsequent sea water adaptation (SWA). In total, 18 guide miRNAs were identified as differentially expressed (gDE miRNAs). Hierarchical clustering analysis of expression changes divided these into one cluster of 13 gDE miRNAs with decreasing expression during smoltification and SWA that included the miRNA-146, miRNA-30 and miRNA-7132 families. Another smaller cluster that showed increasing expression consisted of miR-101a-3p, miR-193b-5p, miR-499a-5p, miR-727a-3p and miR-8159-5p. The gDE miRNAs were predicted to target 747 of the genes (DE mRNAs), showing expression changes in the microarray analysis. The predicted targets included genes encoding NKA-subunits, aquaporin-subunits, cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator and the solute carrier family. Furthermore, the predicted target genes were enriched in biological processes associated with smoltification and SWA (e.g., immune system, reactive oxygen species, stress response and extracellular matrix organization). Collectively, the results indicate that remodeling of the gill involves the post-transcriptional regulation of gene expression by the characterized gDE miRNAs.

Keywords: Atlantic salmon; gill; high-throughput sequencing; microRNA; microarray transcriptome; seawater adaptation; smoltification.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Gene Expression
  • Gills / metabolism
  • MicroRNAs* / genetics
  • MicroRNAs* / metabolism
  • RNA, Messenger / genetics
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism
  • Salmo salar* / genetics
  • Salmo salar* / metabolism
  • Seawater


  • MicroRNAs
  • RNA, Messenger