†These authors contributed equally.
Academic Editor: Rivka Ofir
Background: This study aimed to investigate the mechanisms of acute rejection for vascularized composite allotransplantation (VCA) using microRNAs (miRNAs) differential expression in a VCA animal model. Methods: Brown Norway rats were used as transplant donors and Lewis rats as VCA receptors. The changes were divided into different stages before and after transplantation in Lewis rats, and all appearance changes were recorded. Also, histological evaluations were performed on all recipients, and the expression of microRNAs was analyzed when acute immune rejection occurred. Then, we used GO and KEGG Pathway enrichment analyses to predict miRNA targets. Finally, differentially expressed miRNAs were detected by RT-qPCR. Results: Compared to pre-operation, 22 miRNAs were differentially expressed after operations. Among them, nine were upregulated, and 13 were downregulated in skin tissues. The RT-qPCR results revealed that rno-miR-340-5p and rno-miR-21-5p were significantly upregulated and enriched in the PI3K-Akt signaling pathway. Moreover, rno-miR-145-5p and rno-miR-195-5p were significantly downregulated, and most of their target genes were enriched in the Hippo signaling pathway. The histological evaluations showed that, after VCA, the skin tissue presented severe acute rejection. Conclusions: The miRNAs rno-miR-340-5p, rno-miR-21-5p, rno-miR-145-5p, and rno-miR-195-5p were significantly regulated during VCA acute rejection, when the four miRNAs analyses were done on skin biopsies. These miRNAs might be potential biomarkers for objective, early, and minimally invasive rejection diagnosis.