African clawed frogs, Xenopus laevis, although primarily aquatic, have a high tolerance for dehydration, being capable of withstanding the loss of up to 32-35% of total water body water. Recent studies have shown that microRNAs play a role in the response to dehydration by the liver, kidney and ventral skin of X. laevis. MicroRNAs act by modulating the expression of mRNA transcripts, thereby affecting diverse biochemical pathways. In this study, 43 microRNAs were assessed in frog brains comparing control and dehydrated (31.2 ± 0.83% of total body water lost) conditions. MicroRNAs of interest were measured using a modified protocol which employs polyadenylation of microRNAs prior to reverse transcription and qPCR. Twelve microRNAs that showed a significant decrease in expression (to 41-77% of control levels) in brains from dehydrated frogs (xla-miR-15a, -150, -181a, -191, -211, -218, -219b, -30c, -30e, -31, -34a, and -34b) were identified. Genomic analysis showed that the sequences of these dehydration-responsive microRNAs were highly conserved as compared with the comparable microRNAs of mice (91-100%). Suppression of these microRNAs implies that translation of the mRNA transcripts under their control could be enhanced in response to dehydration. Bioinformatic analysis using the DIANA miRPath program (v.2.0) predicted the top two KEGG pathways that these microRNAs collectively regulate: 1. Axon guidance, and 2. Long-term potentiation. Previous studies indicated that suppression of these microRNAs promotes neuroprotective pathways by increasing the expression of brain-derived neurotrophic factor and activating anti-apoptotic pathways. This suggests that similar actions may be triggered in X. laevis brains as a protective response to dehydration.

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Keywords African clawed frog, Biochemical adaptation, Dehydration stress, Non-coding RNA
Persistent URL
Journal Gene
Luu, B.E. (Bryan E.), & Storey, K. (2015). Dehydration triggers differential microRNA expression in Xenopus laevis brain. Gene, 573(1), 64–69. doi:10.1016/j.gene.2015.07.027