Small RNA cloning and sequencing strategy affects host and viral microRNA expression signatures

Grégoire Stik, Benoît Muylkens, Damien Coupeau, Sylvie Laurent, Ginette Dambrine, Mélanie Messmer, Béatrice Chane-Woon-Ming, Sébastien Pfeffer, Denis Rasschaert

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The establishment of the microRNA (miRNA) expression signatures is the basic element to investigate the role played by these regulatory molecules in the biology of an organism. Marek's disease virus 1 (MDV-1) is an avian herpesvirus that naturally infects chicken and induces T cells lymphomas. During latency, MDV-1, like other herpesviruses, expresses a limited subset of transcripts. These include three miRNA clusters. Several studies identified the expression of virus and host encoded miRNAs from MDV-1 infected cell cultures and chickens. But a high discrepancy was observed when miRNA cloning frequencies obtained from different cloning and sequencing protocols were compared. Thus, we analyzed the effect of small RNA library preparation and sequencing on the miRNA frequencies obtained from the same RNA samples collected during MDV-1 infection of chicken at different steps of the oncoviral pathogenesis. Qualitative and quantitative variations were found in the data, depending on the strategy used. One of the mature miRNA derived from the latency-associated-transcript (LAT), mdv1-miR-M7-5p, showed the highest variation. Its cloning frequency was 50% of the viral miRNA counts when a small scale sequencing approach was used. Its frequency was 100 times less abundant when determined through the deep sequencing approach. Northern blot analysis showed a better correlation with the miRNA frequencies found by the small scale sequencing approach. By analyzing the cellular miRNA repertoire, we also found a gap between the two sequencing approaches. Collectively, our study indicates that next-generation sequencing data considered alone are limited for assessing the absolute copy number of transcripts. Thus, the quantification of small RNA should be addressed by compiling data obtained by using different techniques such as microarrays, qRT-PCR and NB analysis in support of high throughput sequencing data. These observations should be considered when miRNA variations are studied prior addressing functional studies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)35-44
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Biotechnology
Publication statusPublished - 10 Jul 2014


  • Marek's disease virus
  • MicroRNA
  • Small RNA cloning and sequencing
  • Viral infection


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