Endotoxin-induced microRNA expression in equine peripheral blood mononuclear cells

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Virginia Tech


The innate immune response to lipopolysaccharide (LPS) mediated by toll-like receptor 4 (TLR4) contributes substantially to the morbidity of equine gastrointestinal disease, neonatal sepsis and other diseases. MicroRNAs (miRNAs), small non-coding RNA molecules acting as post-transcriptional regulators of gene expression, have key roles in TLR4 signaling regulation in other species. The central hypothesis of this study was that LPS induces differential expression of miRNAs in equine peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs).

PBMCs were isolated from healthy adult horses and cultured with LPS or medium only for 2, 4 and 8 hours. Concentrations of inflammatory cytokines were measured in supernatants by immunoassay. Illumina Next-Generation Sequencing of the miRNA transcriptome was performed in PBMCs at 0, 2 and 4 hours. Selected expression changes were verified by qRT-PCR.

327 mature miRNAs were detected in equine PBMCs. Only miR-155 was significantly upregulated by LPS. 9 miRNAs showed statistically significant expression changes with time. Tumor necrosis factor-α concentration was significantly higher in supernatants from LPS-treated cells than controls from 2 hours, while interleukin-10 and interferon-γ were increased at 8 hours. miR-155 expression was correlated to all three cytokines.

These data provide a foundation for future research into miRNA involvement in equine inflammatory responses. miR-155 is the principal LPS-induced miRNA in horses. Bioinformatic target predictions support roles in regulation of innate and adaptive immune responses including TLR4 signaling, as in humans. It is thus likely to influence the acute inflammatory response to LPS. Further research will be necessary to establish its role in naturally occurring disease.



endotoxemia, Horses, innate immunity, lipopolysaccharide, microRNA, Next Generation Sequencing, toll-like receptor