Profiling microRNA expression in bovine alveolar macrophages using RNA-seq

Peter Vegh, Amir Foroushani, David Magee, Matthew McCabe, John Browne, Nicolas Nalpas, Kevin Conlon, Stephen Gordon, Daniel Bradley, David MacHugh, David Lynn

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    28 Citations (Scopus)


    MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are important regulators of gene expression and are known to play a key role in regulating both adaptive and innate immunity. Bovine alveolar macrophages (BAMs) help maintain lung homeostasis and constitute the front line of host defense against several infectious respiratory diseases, such as bovine tuberculosis. Little is known, however, about the role miRNAs play in these cells. In this study, we used a high-throughput sequencing approach, RNA-seq, to determine the expression levels of known and novel miRNAs in unchallenged BAMs isolated from lung lavages of eight different healthy Holstein-Friesian male calves. Approximately 80 million sequence reads were generated from eight BAM miRNA Illumina sequencing libraries, and 80 miRNAs were identified as being expressed in BAMs at a threshold of at least 100 reads per million (RPM). The expression levels of miRNAs varied over a large dynamic range, with a few miRNAs expressed at very high levels (up to 800,000. RPM), and the majority lowly expressed. Notably, many of the most highly expressed miRNAs in BAMs have known roles in regulating immunity in other species (e.g. bta-let-7i, bta-miR-21, bta-miR-27, bta-miR-99b, bta-miR-146, bta-miR-147, bta-miR-155 and bta-miR-223). The most highly expressed miRNA in BAMs was miR-21, which has been shown to regulate the expression of antimicrobial peptides in Mycobacterium leprae-infected human monocytes. Furthermore, the predicted target genes of BAM-expressed miRNAs were found to be statistically enriched for roles in innate immunity. In addition to profiling the expression of known miRNAs, the RNA-seq data was also analysed to identify potentially novel bovine miRNAs. One putatively novel bovine miRNA was identified. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first RNA-seq study to profile miRNA expression in BAMs and provides an important reference dataset for investigating the regulatory roles miRNAs play in this important immune cell type.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)238-244
    Number of pages7
    Issue number4
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2013


    • Alveolar macrophage
    • Bovine
    • MicroRNA
    • RNA-seq


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