A database of microRNA expression patterns in Xenopus laevis

MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are short, non-coding RNAs around 22 nucleotides long. They inhibit gene expression either by translational repression or by causing the degradation of the mRNAs they bind to. Many are highly conserved amongst diverse organisms and have restricted spatio-temporal expression patterns during embryonic development where they are thought to be involved in generating accuracy of developmental timing and in supporting cell fate decisions and tissue identity. We determined the expression patterns of 180 miRNAs in Xenopus laevis embryos using LNA oligonucleotides. In addition we carried out small RNA-seq on different stages of early Xenopus development, identified 44 miRNAs belonging to 29 new families and characterized the expression of 5 of these. Our analyses identified miRNA expression in many organs of the developing embryo. In particular a large number were expressed in neural tissue and in the somites. Surprisingly none of the miRNAs we have looked at show expression in the heart. Our results have been made freely available as a resource in both XenMARK and Xenbase.