Circulating microRNA Profiles during the Bovine Oestrous Cycle

Jason Ioannidis, F Xavier Donadeu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Up to 50% of ovulations go undetected in modern dairy herds due to attenuated oestrus behavior and a lack of high-accuracy methods for detection of fertile oestrus. This significantly reduces overall herd productivity and constitutes a high economic burden to the dairy industry. MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are ubiquitous regulators of gene expression during both health and disease and they have been shown to regulate different reproductive processes. Extracellular miRNAs are stable and can provide useful biomarkers of tissue function; changes in circulating miRNA profiles have been reported during menstrual cycles. This study sought to establish the potential of circulating miRNAs as biomarkers of oestrus in cattle. We collected plasma samples from 8 Holstein-Friesian heifers on days Days 0, 8 and 16 of an oestrous cycle and analysed small RNA populations on each Day using two independent high-throughput approaches, namely, Illumina sequencing (n = 24 samples) and Qiagen PCR arrays (n = 9 sample pools, 3-4 samples / pool). Subsequently, we used RT-qPCR (n = 24 samples) to validate the results of high-throughput analyses, as well as to establish the expression profiles of additional miRNAs previously reported to be differentially expressed during reproductive cycles. Overall, we identified four miRNAs (let-7f, miR-125b, miR-145 and miR-99a-5p), the plasma levels of which distinctly increased (up to 2.2-fold, P < 0.05) during oestrus (Day 0) relative to other stages of the cycle (Days 8 and 16). Moreover, we identified several hundred different isomiRs and established their relative abundance in bovine plasma. In summary, our results reveal the dynamic nature of plasma miRNAs during the oestrous cycle and provide evidence of the feasibility of using circulating miRNAs as biomarkers of reproductive function in livestock in the future.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0158160
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number6
Early online date24 Jun 2016
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 24 Jun 2016


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