Environmental Science and Pollution Research

, Volume 26, Issue 33, pp 34421–34429 | Cite as

Differentially expressed circular RNAs in air pollution–exposed rat embryos

  • Zheng Li
  • Jianqing Ma
  • Jianxiong ShenEmail author
  • Matthew T. V. Chan
  • William K. K. Wu
  • Zhanyong WuEmail author
Research Article


Circular RNAs (circRNAs) are an important class of non-coding RNAs partly by acting as microRNA sponges. Growing evidence indicates that air pollution exposure during pregnancy could lead to congenital defects in the offspring. In this study, using circRNAs sequencing, we profiled differentially expressed circRNAs in rat embryos exposed to a high concentration (> 200 μg/m3) of fine particulate matter (PM2.5) in utero. Compared with the control embryos whose mothers were reared in clean air, 25 and 55 circRNAs were found to be downregulated and upregulated, respectively, in the air pollution–exposed group. Gene Ontology (GO) and Kyoto Encyclopedia of Genes and Genomes (KEGG) analyses of circRNA-coexpressed genes indicated that segmentation, brain development, and system development together with lysine degradation, Rap1 signaling pathway, and adrenergic signaling were deregulated by in utero air pollution exposure. We also identified the central role of three circRNAs, namely circ_015003, circ_030724, and circ_127215 in the circRNA-microRNA interaction network. These data suggested that circRNA deregulation might play a crucial role in the development of air pollution–associated congenital malformations.


circRNAs Circular RNAs Air pollution Congenital spinal malformations 


Compliance with ethical standards

This animal study was approved by the Ethics Committee of the author’s institution and was carried out in accordance with our previous study.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Orthopaedic SurgeryPeking Union Medical College Hospital, Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences and Peking Union Medical CollegeBeijingChina
  2. 2.Department of Orthopedic SurgeryThe General Hospital of Xingtai Mining Industry Bloc., Orthopaedic Hospital of XingtaiXingtaiChina
  3. 3.Department of Anaesthesia and Intensive CareThe Chinese University of Hong KongHong KongChina
  4. 4.State Key Laboratory of Digestive Diseases, Li Ka Shing Institute of Health SciencesThe Chinese University of Hong KongHong KongChina

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