Small Noncoding RNA Expression During Extreme Anoxia Tolerance of Annual Killifish (Austrofundulus limnaeus) Embryos

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Physiological Genomics

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Small noncoding RNAs (sncRNA) have recently emerged as specific and rapid regulators of gene expression, involved in a myriad of cellular and organismal processes. MicroRNAs, a class of sncRNAs, are differentially expressed in diverse taxa in response to environmental stress, including anoxia. In most vertebrates, a brief period of oxygen deprivation results in severe tissue damage or death. Studies on sncRNA and anoxia have focused on these anoxia-sensitive species. Studying sncRNAs in anoxia-tolerant organisms may provide insight into adaptive mechanisms supporting anoxia tolerance. Embryos of the annual killifish Austrofundulus limnaeus are the most anoxia-tolerant vertebrates known, surviving over 100 days at their peak tolerance at 25°C. Their anoxia tolerance and physiology vary over development, such that both anoxia-tolerant and anoxia-sensitive phenotypes comprise the species. This allows for a robust comparison to identify sncRNAs essential to anoxia-tolerance. For this study, RNA sequencing was used to identify and quantify expression of sncRNAs in four embryonic stages of A. limnaeus in response to an exposure to anoxia and subsequent aerobic recovery. Unique stage-specific patterns of expression were identified that correlate with anoxia tolerance. In addition, embryos of A. limnaeus appear to constitutively express stress-responsive miRNAs. Most differentially expressed sncRNAs were expressed at higher levels during recovery. Many novel groups of sncRNAs with expression profiles suggesting a key role in anoxia tolerance were identified, including sncRNAs derived from mitochondrial tRNAs. This global analysis has revealed groups of candidate sncRNAs that we hypothesize support anoxia tolerance.



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