by Wenyan Xie, Jacob Adolf, Matthias F. Melzig
MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are a class of approximately 22 nucleotides single-stranded non-coding RNA molecules that play crucial roles in gene expression. It has been reported that the plant miRNAs might enter mammalian bloodstream and have a functional role in human metabolism, indicating that miRNAs might be one of the hidden bioactive ingredients in medicinal plants. Viscum album L. (Loranthaceae, European mistletoe) has been widely used for the treatment of cancer and cardiovascular diseases, but its functional compounds have not been well characterized. We considered that miRNAs might be involved in the pharmacological activities of V. album. High-throughput Illumina sequencing was performed to identify the novel and conserved miRNAs of V. album. The putative human targets were predicted. In total, 699 conserved miRNAs and 1373 novel miRNAs have been identified from V. album. Based on the combined use of TargetScan, miRanda, PITA, and RNAhybrid methods, the intersection of 30697 potential human genes have been predicted as putative targets of 29 novel miRNAs, while 14559 putative targets were highly enriched in 33 KEGG pathways. Interestingly, these highly enriched KEGG pathways were associated with some human diseases, especially cancer, cardiovascular diseases and neurological disorders, which might explain the clinical use as well as folk medicine use of mistletoe. However, further experimental validation is necessary to confirm these human targets of mistletoe miRNAs. Additionally, target genes involved in bioactive components synthesis in V. album were predicted as well. A total of 68 miRNAs were predicted to be involved in terpenoid biosynthesis, while two miRNAs including val-miR152 and miR9738 were predicted to target viscotoxins and lectins, respectively, which increased the knowledge regarding miRNA-based regulation of terpenoid biosynthesis, lectin and viscotoxin expressions in V. album.