Signs of embryo-maternal communication: miRNAs in the maternal serum of pregnant pigs
Circulating miRNAs were proposed to be indicators of normal or complicated pregnancies. Based on this knowledge and our recent transcriptomic approach showing expression of miRNAs in the porcine endometrium, conceptuses and uterine extracellular vesicles during pregnancy, we have hypothesized that signs of ongoing local embryo-maternal crosstalk involving miRNAs can be detected in the circulation of pregnant gilts as early as a few days after maternal recognition of pregnancy. By applying several molecular biology techniques that differ in dynamic range and precision in maternal serum of Day 16 pregnant pigs, we were able to show for the first time increased levels of several miRNAs, previously reported to be expressed in either conceptuses and extracellular vesicles (miR-26a and miR-125b) or pregnant endometrium (miR-23b). Our results clearly showed that real-time RT-PCR and digital PCR are the most reliable methods, being able to detect small-fold changes of low-abundant circulating miRNAs. Further validation in a separate group of gilts confirmed an increase in miR-23b and miR-125b levels. In silico analyses identified pregnancy-related biological processes and pathways affected by these miRNAs. Target prediction analysis revealed hundreds of porcine transcripts with conserved sites for these miRNAs, which were classified into signaling pathways relevant to pregnancy. We conclude that a unique set of miRNAs can already be observed in the circulation of pigs during the first weeks of pregnancy, as a result of the initiation of embryo-maternal communication.
Source: The journal of Reproductive Science