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A number of blood circulating microRNAs (miRNAs) are proven disease biomarkers and have been associated with ageing and longevity in multiple species. However, the role of circulating miRNAs in livestock species has not been fully studied. We hypothesise that plasma miRNA expression profiles are affected by age and genetic background, and associated with health and production traits in dairy cattle. Using PCR arrays, we assessed 306 plasma miRNAs for effects of age (calves vs mature cows) and genetic background (control vs select lines) in 18 animals. We identified miRNAs which were significantly affected by age (26 miRNAs) and genetic line (5 miRNAs). Using RT-qPCR in a larger cow population (n = 73) we successfully validated array data for 12 age-related miRNAs, one genetic line-related miRNA, and utilised expression data to associate their levels in circulation with functional traits in these animals. Plasma miRNA levels were associated with telomere length (ageing/longevity indicator), milk production and composition, milk somatic cell count (mastitis indicator), fertility, lameness, and blood metabolites linked with body energy balance and metabolic stress. In conclusion, circulating miRNAs could provide useful selection markers for dairy cows to help improve health, welfare and production performance.
Ioannidis, J., Sánchez-Molano, E., Psifidi, A., Donadeu, F. X., & Banos, G. (2018). Association of plasma microRNA expression with age, genetic background and functional traits in dairy cattle. Scientific Reports, 8(1). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-018-31099-w