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Differential expression of toxoplasma gondii microRNAs in murine and human hosts
MicroRNAs are short RNA sequences involved in post-transcriptional gene regulation. MicroRNAs are known for a wide variety of species ranging from bacteria to plants. It has become clear that some cross-kingdom regulation is possible especially between viruses and their hosts. We hypothesized that intracellular parasites, like Toxoplasma gondii, similar to viruses would be able to modulate their host’s gene expression. We were able to show that T. gondii produces many putative pre-miRNAs which are actually transcribed. Furthermore, some of these expressed pre-miRNAs have a striking resemblance to host mature miRNAs. Previous studies indicated that T. gondii infection coincides with increased abundance of some miRNAs. Here we were able to show that many of these miRNAs have close relatives in T. gondii which may not be distinguishable using PCR. Taken together, the similarity to host miRNAs, their confirmed expression, and their upregulation during infection, it suggests that T. gondii actively transfers miRNAs to regulate its host. We conclude, that this type of cross-kingdom regulation may be possible, but that targeted analysis is necessary to consolidate our computational findings. © Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016. All rights are reserved.