Background: The neural crest (NC) is a class of transitory stem cell-like cells unique to vertebrate embryos. NC cells arise within the dorsal neural tube where they undergo an epithelial to mesenchymal transition in order to migrate and differentiate throughout the developing embryo. The derivative cell types give rise to multiple tissues, including the craniofacial skeleton, peripheral nervous system and skin pigment cells. Several well-studied gene regulatory networks underpin NC development, which when disrupted can lead to various neurocristopathies such as craniofrontonasal dysplasia, DiGeorge syndrome and some forms of cancer. Small RNAs, such as microRNAs (miRNAs) are non-coding RNA molecules important in post-transcriptional gene silencing and critical for cellular regulation of gene expression. Results: To uncover novel small RNAs in NC development we used high definition adapters and next generation sequencing of libraries derived from ectodermal explants of Xenopus laevis embryos induced to form neural and NC tissue. Ectodermal and blastula animal pole (blastula) stage tissues were also sequenced. We show that miR-427 is highly abundant in all four tissue types though in an isoform specific manner and we define a set of 11 miRNAs that are enriched in the NC. In addition, we show miR-301a and miR-338 are highly expressed in both the NC and blastula suggesting a role for these miRNAs in maintaining the stem cell-like phenotype of NC cells. Conclusion: We have characterised the miRNAs expressed in Xenopus embryonic explants treated to form ectoderm, neural or NC tissue. This has identified novel tissue specific miRNAs and highlighted differential expression of miR-427 isoforms.
Ward, N. J., Green, D., Higgins, J., Dalmay, T., Münsterberg, A., Moxon, S., & Wheeler, G. N. (2018). microRNAs associated with early neural crest development in Xenopus laevis. BMC Genomics, 19(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12864-018-4436-0