When faced with extreme environmental conditions, the milk snail (Otala lactea) enters a state of dormancy known as estivation. This is characterized by a strong reduction in metabolic rate to <30% of normal resting rate that is facilitated by various behavioural, physiological, and molecular mechanisms. Herein, we investigated the regulation of microRNA in the induction of estivation. Changes in the expression levels of 75 highly conserved microRNAs were analysed in snail foot muscle, of which 26 were significantly upregulated during estivation compared with controls. These estivation-responsive microRNAs were linked to cell functions that are crucial for long-term survival in a hypometabolic state including anti-apoptosis, cell-cycle arrest, and maintenance of muscle functionality. Several of the microRNA responses by snail foot muscle also characterize hypometabolism in other species and support the existence of a conserved suite of miRNA responses that regulate environmental stress responsive metabolic rate depression across phylogeny.

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Department of Biology

Hoyeck, M.P. (Myriam P.), Hadj-Moussa, H. (Hanane), & Storey, K. (2019). Estivation-responsive microRNAs in a hypometabolic terrestrial snail. PeerJ, 2019(2). doi:10.7717/peerj.6515