MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are a class of small RNA molecules that regulate gene expression by inhibiting the protein translation or targeting the mRNA cleavage. They play many important roles in living organism cells; however, the knowledge on miRNAs functions has become more extensive upon their identification in biological fluids and recent reports on plant-origin miRNAs abundance in human plasma and serum.
Considering these findings, researchers from the Polish Academy of Sciences performed a rigorous bioinformatics analysis of publicly available, raw data from high-throughput sequencing studies on miRNAs composition in human and porcine breast milk exosomes to identify the fraction of food-derived miRNAs. Several processing and filtering steps were applied to increase the accuracy, and to avoid false positives. Through aforementioned analysis, 35 and 17 miRNA species, belonging to 25 and 11 MIR families, were identified, respectively. In the human samples the highest abundance levels yielded the ath-miR166a, pab-miR951, ptc-miR472a and bdi-miR168, while in the porcine breast milk exosomes, the zma-miR168a, zma-miR156a and ath-miR166a have been identified in the largest amounts. The consensus prediction and annotation of potential human targets for select plant miRNAs suggest that the aforementioned molecules may interact with mRNAs coding several transcription factors, protein receptors, transporters and immune-related proteins, thus potentially influencing human organism. Taken together, the presented analysis shows proof of abundant plant miRNAs in mammal breast milk exosomes, pointing at the same time to the new possibilities arising from this discovery.