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BACKGROUND: MicroRNAs negatively regulate gene expression and play a pivotal role in the pathogenesis of human type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM). As the domestic cat presents a spontaneous animal model for human T2DM, the purpose of this study was to investigate whether microRNAs are detectable in feline serum and whether microRNA expression profiles differ between healthy and diabetic cats. METHODS: Total RNA was extracted from 400 µl serum of healthy lean (HL) and newly diagnosed diabetic (D) cats. MicroRNA microarrays representing 1079 distinct mouse miRNA targets were used to measure miRNA expression in samples from eight HL and eight D cats. RESULTS: By microarray, 227 distinct microRNAs were identified. Nineteen miRNAs were differentially expressed in diabetic cats, but only two reached statistical significance after correction for multiple comparisons. In qRT-PCR, miR-122* was found to be upregulated in diabetic cats more than 40-fold compared to HL cats, while miR-193b was upregulated about 10-fold. MiR-483* showed a 6- fold increase in diabetic cats compared to HL cats. CONCLUSIONS: Small volumes of serum samples yield sufficient material to detect altered microRNA expression profiles in diabetic cats. The domestic cat may be considered a useful animal model for studying miRNAs involved in human T2DM. Blood was drawn from two groups of cats: 8 healthy cats and 8 cats suffering from diabetes. After clotting, samples were centrifuged and total mRNA was extracted from serum. These 16 serum samples were analyzed and the groups were compared. Due to technical problems during hybridization (leaking chamber), sample 1_4_B (Serum_diabetic_8) was not included into analysis.

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