MicroRNAs (miRs) are short non-coding RNAs that fine-tune the regulation of gene expression to coordinate a wide range of biological processes. Because of their role in the regulation of gene expression, miRs are essential players in development by acting on cell fate determination and progression towards cell differentiation and are increasingly relevant to human health and disease. Although the zebrafish Danio rerio is a major model for studies of development, genetics, physiology, evolution, and human biology, the annotation of zebrafish miR-producing genes remains limited.
In the present work, researchers from the University of Oregon report deep sequencing data of zebrafish small RNAs from the brain, heart, testis, and ovary. Results provide evidence for the expression of 56 un-annotated mir genes and 248 un-annotated mature strands, increasing the number of zebrafish mir genes over those already deposited in miRBase by 16% and the number of mature sequences by 63%. The researchers also describe the existence of three pairs of mirror-mir genes and two mirtron genes, genetic features previously undescribed in non-mammalian vertebrates. This report provides information that substantially increases our knowledge of the zebrafish miRNome and will benefit the entire miR community.