RNA sequencing-based identification of microRNAs in the antler cartilage of Gansu red deer ( Cervus elaphus kansuensis)

PeerJ. 2022 Sep 21;10:e13947. doi: 10.7717/peerj.13947. eCollection 2022.


Background: The velvet antler is a complex mammalian bone organ with unique biological characteristics, such as regeneration. The rapid growth stage (RGS) is a special period in the regeneration process of velvet antler.

Methods: To elucidate the functions of microRNAs (miRNAs) at the RGS of antler development in Gansu red deer (Cervus elaphus kansuensis), we used RNA sequencing (RNA-seq) to analyze miRNA expression profiles in cartilage tissues of deer antler tips at three different growth stages.

Results: The RNA-seq results revealed 1,073 known and 204 novel miRNAs, including 1,207, 1,242, and 1,204 from 30-, 60-, and 90-d antler cartilage tissues, respectively. To identify key miRNAs controlling rapid antler growth, we predicted target genes of screened 25 differentially expressed miRNAs (DEMs) and specifically expressed miRNAs (SEMs) in 60 d and annotated their functions. The KEGG results revealed that target genes of 25 DEMs and 30 SEMs were highly classified in the "Metabolic pathways", "Pathways in cancer", "Proteoglycans in cancer" and "PI3K-Akt signaling pathway". In addition, a novel miRNA (CM008039.1_315920), highly enriched in "NF-kappa B signaling pathway", may need further study.

Conclusions: The miRNAs identified in our study are potentially important in rapid antler growth. Our findings provide new insights to help elucidate the miRNA-mediated regulatory mechanisms involved during velvet antler development in C. elaphus kansuensis.

Keywords: Cervus elaphus kansuensis; Gansu red deer; Rapid growth; Velvet antler; microRNAs.

Grant support

This work was supported by the Doctoral Scientific Research Start-up Foundation of Qinghai University. The funders had a role in project administration, funding acquisition, methodology, conceptualization, formal analysis, investigation, data curation, writing and editing the manuscript.