In a previous microarray study, we identified a subset of micro RNAS (miRNAs), which expression was distinctly higher in atretic than healthy follicles of cattle. In the present study, we investigated the involvement of those miRNAs in granulosa and theca cells during atresia. Reverse Transcription-quantitative Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-qPCR) confirmed that miR-21-5p/-3p, miR-150, miR-409a, miR-142-5p, miR-378, miR-222, miR-155, and miR199a-5p were expressed at higher levels in atretic than healthy follicles (9–17 mm, classified based on steroidogenic capacity). All miRNAs except miR-21-3p and miR-378 were expressed at higher levels in theca than granulosa cells. The expression of 13 predicted miRNA targets was determined in follicular cells by RT-qPCR, revealing downregulation of HIF1A, ETS1, JAG1, VEGFA, and MSH2 in either or both cell types during atresia. Based on increases in miRNA levels simultaneous with decreases in target levels in follicular cells, several predicted miRNA target interactions were confirmed that are putatively involved in follicular atresia, namely miR-199a-5p/miR-155-HIF1A in granulosa cells, miR-155/miR-222- ETS1 in theca cells, miR-199a-5p-JAG1 in theca cells, miR-199a-5p/miR-150/miR-378-VEGFA in granulosa and theca cells, and miR-155-MSH2 in theca cells. These results offer novel insight on the involvement of miRNAs in follicle development by identifying a miRNA target network that is putatively involved in follicle atresia.
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