The North American wood frog, Rana sylvatica, is one of just a few anuran species that tolerates whole body freezing during the winter and has been intensely studied to identify the biochemical adaptations that support freeze tolerance. Among these adaptations is the altered expression of many genes, making freeze-responsive changes to gene regulatory mechanisms a topic of interest. The present study focuses on the potential involvement of microRNAs as one such regulatory mechanism and aims to better understand freeze/thaw stress-induced microRNA responses in the freeze-tolerant wood frog. Using quantitative PCR, relative levels of 53 microRNAs were measured in heart and skeletal muscle of control, 24 h frozen, and 8 h thawed frogs. MicroRNAs showed tissue specific expression patterns: 21 microRNAs decreased in the heart during thawing, whereas 16 microRNAs increased during freezing stress in skeletal muscle. These findings suggest that select genes may be activated and suppressed in heart and skeletal muscle, respectively, in response to freezing. Bioinformatics analysis using the DIANA miRPath program (v.2.0) predicted that the differentially expressed microRNAs may collectively regulate tissue-specific cellular pathways to promote survival of wood frogs undergoing freezing and thawing.

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Keywords Cryoprotection, Hypometabolism, Non-coding RNA, Rana sylvatica
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Journal Journal of Comparative Physiology B
Bansal, S. (Saumya), Luu, B.E. (Bryan E.), & Storey, K. (2016). MicroRNA regulation in heart and skeletal muscle over the freeze–thaw cycle in the freeze tolerant wood frog. Journal of Comparative Physiology B, 186(2), 229–241. doi:10.1007/s00360-015-0951-3