In silico identification of microRNAs from expressed sequence tags of three earthworm species
MicroRNAs are a newly identified class of small regulatory RNAs that target more than 30% protein-coding genes. Elevating evidence shows that miRNA play a critical role in many biological and metabolic processes, including developmental timing, tissue differentiation, and response to chemical exposure. In this study, we applied a computational approach to analyze expressed sequence tags (ESTs), and identified 32 miRNA belonging to 22 miRNA families, in three earthworm species Eisenia fetida, Eisenia andrei, and Lumbricus rubellus. Some of the newly identified miRNAs putatively play important roles in animal growth and development as well as in disease and response to environmental stresses, including chemical exposure. They also share similar features with known animal miRNAs, for instance, the nucleotide U being dominant in both mature and pre-miRNA sequences, particularly in the first position of mature miRNA sequence at the 5' end.
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