Research Papers:

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

Xingrong Qing, Jian Shi, Tingting Dong, Chunlin Wu, Lian Hu and Honggang Li _

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Oncotarget. 2017; 8:56839-56849. https://doi.org/10.18632/oncotarget.18076

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Xingrong Qing1, Jian Shi1, Tingting Dong1,2, Chunlin Wu1,3, Lian Hu1,4 and Honggang Li1,4

1Family Planning Research Institute/Center of Reproductive Medicine, Tongji Medical College, Huazhong University of Science and Technology, Wuhan, China

2Center of Reproductive Medicine, Tengzhou Central People’s Hospital, Tengzhou, China

3Center of Reproductive Medicine, The No.1 Hospital of Wuhan, Wuhan, China

4Wuhan Tongji Reproductive Medicine Hospital, Wuhan, China

Correspondence to:

Honggang Li, email: [email protected]

Keywords: unexplained asthenozoospermia, primate specific, epididymal miRNA, sperm maturation, epigenetic basis

Received: March 29, 2017    Accepted: April 25, 2017    Published: May 23, 2017


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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