A total of 796 conserved miRNAs, 263 new miRNAs, and 821 pre-miRNAs were uncovered. After comparative analyses of their sequence data with published mammary gland transcriptome data across different stages of lactation, a total of 37 miRNAs (including miR-145) had significant differences in expression over the lactation cycle. Further studies revealed that miR-145 regulates metabolism of fatty acids in goat mammary gland epithelial cells (GMEC). Compared with nonlactating mammary tissue, lactating mammary gland had a marked increase in expression of miR-145. Overexpression of miR-145 increased transcription of genes associated with milk fat synthesis resulting in greater fat droplet formation, triacylglycerol accumulation, and proportion of unsaturated fatty acids. In contrast, silencing of miR-145 impaired fatty acid synthesis. Inhibition of miR-145 increased methylation levels of fatty acid synthase (FASN), stearoyl-CoA desaturase 1 (SCD1), peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor gamma (PPARG), and sterol regulatory element binding transcription factor 1 (SREBF1). Luciferase reporter assays confirmed that insulin induced gene 1 (INSIG1) is a direct target of miR-145.
These findings underscore the need for further studies to evaluate the potential for targeting miR-145 for improving beneficial milk components in ruminant milk.