Non-coding small RNAs of the micro-RNA class (miRNA) are conserved regulators of gene function with a broad impact on biological processes. We screened miRNA levels for age-related changes in individual worms and investigated their influence on the lifespan of the nematode C. elegans. We measured the abundance of 69 miRNAs expressed in individual animals at different ages with over thirty five thousand discrete quantitative nano-fluidic polymerase chain reactions. We found that miRNA abundance was highly variable between individual worms raised under identical conditions and that expression variability generally increased with age. To identify expression differences associated with either reproductive or somatic tissues, we analyzed wild type and mutants that lacked germlines. miRNAs from the mir-35-41 cluster increased in abundance with age in wild type animals, but were nearly absent from mutants lacking a germline, suggesting their age-related increase originates from the germline. Most miRNAs with age-dependent levels did not have a major effect on lifespan, as corresponding deletion mutants exhibited wild-type lifespans. The major exception to this was mir-71, which increased in abundance with age and was required for normal longevity. Our genetic characterization indicates that mir-71 acts at least partly in parallel to insulin/IGF like signals to influence lifespan.
Lucanic, M., Graham, J., Scott, G., Bhaumik, D., Benz, C. C., Hubbard, A., … Melov, S. (2013). Age-related micro-RNA abundance in individual C. elegans. Aging, 5(6), 394–411. https://doi.org/10.18632/aging.100564