Studies of the gene and miRNA expression profiles associated with the postnatal late growth, development, and aging of skeletal muscle are lacking in sika deer. To understand the molecular mechanisms of the growth and development of sika deer skeletal muscle, we used de novo RNA sequencing (RNA-seq) and microRNA sequencing (miRNA-seq) analyses to determine the differentially expressed (DE) unigenes and miRNAs from skeletal muscle tissues at 1, 3, 5, and 10 years in sika deer. A total of 51,716 unigenes, 171 known miRNAs, and 60 novel miRNAs were identified based on four mRNA and small RNA libraries. A total of 2,044 unigenes and 11 miRNAs were differentially expressed between adolescence and juvenile sika deer, 1,946 unigenes and 4 miRNAs were differentially expressed between adult and adolescent sika deer, and 2,209 unigenes and 1 miRNAs were differentially expressed between aged and adult sika deer. Gene Ontology (GO) and Kyoto Encyclopedia of Genes and Genomes (KEGG) analyses showed that DE unigenes and miRNA were mainly related to energy and substance metabolism, processes that are closely associate with the growth, development, and aging of skeletal muscle. We also constructed mRNA–mRNA and miRNA–mRNA interaction networks related to the growth, development, and aging of skeletal muscle. The results show that mRNA (Myh1, Myh2, Myh7, ACTN3, etc.) and miRNAs (miR-133a, miR-133c, miR-192, miR-151-3p, etc.) may play important roles in muscle growth and development, and mRNA (WWP1, DEK, UCP3, FUS, etc.) and miRNAs (miR-17-5p, miR-378b, miR-199a-5p, miR-7, etc.) may have key roles in muscle aging. In this study, we determined the dynamic miRNA and unigenes transcriptome in muscle tissue for the first time in sika deer. The age-dependent miRNAs and unigenes identified will offer insights into the molecular mechanism underlying muscle development, growth, and maintenance and will also provide valuable information for sika deer genetic breeding.
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