African swine fever (ASF) is a re-expanding devastating viral disease currently threatening the pig industry worldwide. MicroRNAs are a class of 17-25 nucleotide non- coding RNAs that have been shown to have critical functions in a wide variety of biological processes, such as cell differentiation, cell cycle regulation, carcinogenesis, apoptosis, regulation of immunity as well as in viral infections by cleavage or translational repression of mRNAs. Nevertheless, there is no information about miRNA expression in an ASFV infection.
In this proof-of-concept study, we have analyzed miRNAs expressed in spleen and submandibular lymph node of experimentally infected pigs with a virulent (E75) or its derived attenuated (E75CV1) ASFV strain, as well as, at different times post-infection with the virulent strain, by high throughput sequencing of small RNA libraries.
Spleen presented a more differential expression pattern than lymph nodes in an ASFV infection. Of the most abundant miRNAs, 12 were differentially expressed in both tissues at two different times in infected animals with the virulent strain. Of these, miR-451, miR-145-5p, miR-181a and miR-122 presented up-regulation at late times post-infection while miR-92a, miR-23a, miR-92b-3p, miR-126-5p, miR-126-3p, miR-30d, miR-23b and miR-92c showed down-regulation. Of the 8 differentially expressed miRNAs identified at the same time post-infection in infected animals with the virulent strain compared with animals infected with its attenuated strain, miR-126-5p, miR-92c, miR-92a, miR-30e-5p and miR-500a-5p presented up-regulation whereas miR-125b, miR-451 and miR-125a were down-regulated. All these miRNAs have been shown to be associated with cellular genes involved in pathways related to the immune response, virus-host interactions as well as with several viral genes.
The study of miRNA expression will contribute to a better understanding of African swine fever virus pathogenesis, essential in the development of any disease control strategy.