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Identification of circulating small non-coding RNAs in relation to male subfertility and reproductive hormones

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  • Kishlay Kumar
  • Dorota Trzybulska
  • Christos Tsatsanis
  • Aleksander Giwercman
  • Kristian Almstrup
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Male subfertility is often associated with sub-optimal health status and traditional semen and hormone analysis reveal only limited information about the reduced fertility potential. Circulating small non-coding RNAs (sncRNAs) are paracrine and endocrine messengers, with prognostic potential. Here, we utilised small RNA-Seq to identify novel cell-free circulating sncRNAs that could act as potential biomarkers of male subfertility. We analysed sera from twelve subfertile men and four controls. The subfertile men were further sub-divided into the three groups based on reproductive hormone levels: group 1 (n = 4): hormone levels similar to the controls, group 2 (n = 4) showing elevated FSH levels, and group 3 (n = 4) with low total testosterone (TT). Total RNA was extracted from serum and sequenced to identify miRNAs and piRNAs. Selected sncRNAs were qPCR validated in a larger and independent cohort of subfertile men (n = 57) and normozoospermic controls (n = 19). RNA-Seq resulted in the identification of 1123 and 330 circulating miRNAs and piRNAs, respectively. Several miRNAs and piRNAs were differentially (p = 0.05) present between controls and subfertile men. Subfertile men with low TT appeared to have a distinct sncRNA profile, compared to group 1 and 2. Validation of two miRNAs (hsa-miR-542-5p and hsa-let-7i-3p) and one piRNA (hsa-piR-26399) in an independent cohort confirmed a significant difference in circulating levels between subfertile and control men. Enrichment analysis of the putative miRNA targets showed association with steroid biosynthesis pathway highlighting a potential regulatory role of these miRNAs. We propose that circulating sncRNAs may represent new important functional biomarkers in male reproductive endocrinology.

Original languageEnglish
Article number110443
JournalMolecular and Cellular Endocrinology
Volume492
Pages (from-to)110443
ISSN0303-7207
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2019

    Research areas

  • Male subfertility, miRNAs, piRNAs, Reproductive endocrinology, Sequencing, Small RNAs

ID: 57231481