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BMC Genomics. 2014 Mar 7;15:181. doi: 10.1186/1471-2164-15-181.

Transcriptome microRNA profiling of bovine mammary epithelial cells challenged with Escherichia coli or Staphylococcus aureus bacteria reveals pathogen directed microRNA expression profiles.

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Department of Agricultural, Food and Nutritional Science, University of Alberta, Edmonton, AB T6G2P5, Canada.



MicroRNAs (miRNAs) can post-transcriptionally regulate gene expression and have been shown to be critical regulators to the fine-tuning of epithelial immune responses. However, the role of miRNAs in bovine responses to E. coli and S. aureus, two mastitis causing pathogens, is not well understood.


The global expression of miRNAs in bovine mammary epithelial cells (MAC-T cells) challenged with and without heat-inactivated Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus) or Escherichia coli (E. coli) bacteria at 0, 6, 12, 24, and 48 hr was profiled using RNA-Seq. A total of 231 known bovine miRNAs were identified with more than 10 counts per million in at least one of 13 libraries and 5 miRNAs including bta-miR-21-5p, miR-27b, miR-22-3p, miR-184 and let-7f represented more than 50% of the abundance. One hundred and thirteen novel miRNAs were also identified and more than one third of them belong to the bta-miR-2284 family. Seventeen miRNAs were significantly (P < 0.05) differentially regulated by the presence of pathogens. E. coli initiated an earlier regulation of miRNAs (6 miRNAs differentially regulated within the first 6 hrs post challenge as compared to 1 miRNA for S. aureus) while S. aureus presented a delayed response. Five differentially expressed miRNAs (bta-miR-184, miR-24-3p, miR-148, miR-486 and let-7a-5p) were unique to E. coli while four (bta-miR-2339, miR-499, miR-23a and miR-99b) were unique to S. aureus. In addition, our study revealed a temporal differential regulation of five miRNAs (bta-miR-193a-3p, miR-423-5p, miR-30b-5p, miR-29c and miR-un116) in unchallenged cells. Target gene predictions of pathogen differentially expressed miRNAs indicate a significant enrichment in gene ontology functional categories in development/cellular processes, biological regulation as well as cell growth and death. Furthermore, target genes were significantly enriched in several KEGG pathways including immune system, signal transduction, cellular process, nervous system, development and human diseases.


Using next-generation sequencing, our study identified a pathogen directed differential regulation of miRNAs in MAC-T cells with roles in immunity and development. Our study provides a further confirmation of the involvement of mammary epithelia cells in contributing to the immune response to infecting pathogens and suggests the potential of miRNAs to serve as biomarkers for diagnosis and development of control measures.

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