Gestational Age Dependence of the Maternal Circulating Long Non-Coding RNA Transcriptome During Normal Pregnancy Highlights Antisense and Pseudogene Transcripts
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Abstract: In the post-genomic era, our understanding of the molecular regulators of physiologic and pathologic processes in pregnancy is expanding at the whole-genome level. Longitudinal changes in the known protein-coding transcriptome during normal pregnancy, which we recently reported (Gomez-Lopez et al., 2019), have improved our definition of the major operant networks, yet pregnancy-related functions of the non-coding RNA transcriptome remain poorly understood. A key finding of the ENCODE (Encyclopedia of DNA Elements) Consortium, the successor of the Human Genome Project, was that the human genome contains approximately 60,000 genes, the majority of which do not encode proteins. The total transcriptional output of non-protein-coding RNA genes, collectively referred to as the noncoding transcriptome, is comprised mainly of long non-coding RNA (lncRNA) transcripts (Derrien et al., 2012). Although the ncRNA transcriptome eclipses its protein-coding counterpart in abundance, it has until recently lacked a comprehensive, unbiased, genome-scale characterization over the timecourse of normal human pregnancy. Here, we annotated, characterized, and selectively validated the longitudinal changes in the non-coding transcriptome of maternal whole blood during normal pregnancy to term. We identified nine long non-coding RNAs (lncRNAs), including long intergenic non-coding RNAs (lincRNAs) as well as lncRNAs antisense to or otherwise in the immediate vicinity of protein-coding genes, that were differentially expressed with advancing gestation in normal pregnancy: AL355711, BC039551 (expressed mainly in the placenta), JHDM1D-AS1, A2M-AS1, MANEA-AS1, NR_034004, LINC00649, LINC00861, and LINC01094. By cross-referencing our dataset Edited by: Naoyuki Kataoka, The University of Tokyo, Japan Reviewed by: James Dominic Mills, Academic Medical Center, Netherlands Andreas Werner, Newcastle University, United Kingdom *Correspondence: Roberto Romero firstname.lastname@example.org Leonard Lipovich email@example.com Specialty section: This article was submitted to RNA, a section of the journal Frontiers in Genetics Received: 19 August 2021 Accepted: 29 October 2021 Published: 22 November 2021 Citation: Kleinbrink EL, Gomez-Lopez N, Ju D, Done B, Goustin A-S, Tarca AL, Romero R and Lipovich L (2021) Gestational Age Dependence of the Maternal Circulating Long Non-Coding RNA Transcriptome During Normal Pregnancy Highlights Antisense and Pseudogene Transcripts. Front. Genet. 12:760849. doi: 10.3389/fgene.2021.760849 Frontiers in Genetics | www.frontiersin.org 1 November 2021 | Volume 12 | Article 760849 ORIGINAL RESEARCH published: 22 November 2021 doi: 10.3389/fgene.2021.760849 against major public pseudogene catalogs, we also identified six transcribed pseudogenes that were differentially expressed over time during normal pregnancy in maternal blood: UBBP4, FOXO3B, two Makorin (MKRN) pseudogenes (MKRN9P and LOC441455), PSME2P2, and YBX3P1. We also identified three non-coding RNAs belonging to other classes that were modulated during gestation: the microRNA MIR4439, the small nucleolar RNA (snoRNA) SNORD41, and the small Cajal-body specific ncRNA SCARNA2. The expression profiles of most hits were broadly suggestive of functions in pregnancy. These time-dependent changes of the non-coding transcriptome during normal pregnancy, which may confer specific regulatory impacts on their protein-coding gene targets, will facilitate a deeper molecular understanding of pregnancy and lncRNA-mediated molecular pathways at the maternal-fetal interface and of how these pathways impact maternal and fetal health.