Dysregulation of an X-linked primate-specific epididymal microRNA cluster in unexplained asthenozoospermia

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Abstract

Asthenoszoopermia, characterized by reduced sperm motility, is one of the primary forms of male infertility. Whereas most cases were diagnosed into unexplained asthenozoospermia (UA) because the etiology cannot be identified. In animal models, epigenetic dysregulation in epididymis can impair sperm maturation and result in asthenozoospermia. However, researches of epididymal epigenetic regulation on humans are impeded by the difficulty in obtaining epididymal tissues. We previously identified cell-free seminal microRNAs predominately derived from epididymis in human ejaculate. In the present study, these microRNAs were used to screen and validate the microRNA dysregulation in men with UA, which were divided into screening set and validation set. The expression of five miRNAs (miR-891b, miR-892b, miR-892a, miR-888 and miR-890) was found and confirmed to be dysregulated in men with UA. Interestingly, these five miRNAs belong to a primate-specific miRNA cluster located on the X chromosome with epididymis specific expression. Moreover, obvious coherent dysregulation of these miRNAs were observed in 13% men with UA. Regression analysis demonstrated that levels of these miRNAs were significantly correlated with progressive sperm motility. Functions and pathways of predicted target genes of this cluster suggested its role in sperm maturation. Dysregulation of this miRNA cluster might be an epigenetic basis for some patients with UA. We also showed a noninvasive and feasible approach to get epigenetic information of human epididymis.

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Qing, X., Shi, J., Dong, T., Wu, C., Hu, L., & Li, H. (2017). Dysregulation of an X-linked primate-specific epididymal microRNA cluster in unexplained asthenozoospermia. Oncotarget, 8(34), 56839–56849. https://doi.org/10.18632/oncotarget.18076

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