Identification of the X-linked germ cell specific miRNAs (XmiRs) and their functions

Hiromitsu Ota, Yumi Ito-Matsuoka, Yasuhisa Matsui

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)


MicroRNAs (miRNAs) play a critical role in multiple aspects of biology. Dicer, an RNase III endonuclease, is essential for the biogenesis of miRNAs, and the germ cell-specific Dicer1 knockout mouse shows severe defects in gametogenesis. How miRNAs regulate germ cell development is still not fully understood. In this study, we identified germ cell-specific miRNAs (miR-741-3p, miR-871-3p, miR-880-3p) by analyzing published RNA-seq data of mouse. These miRNA genes are contiguously located on the X chromosome near other miRNA genes. We named them X chromosome-linked miRNAs (XmiRs). To elucidate the functions of XmiRs, we generated knockout mice of these miRNA genes using the CRISPR/ Cas9-mediated genome editing system. Although no histological abnormalities were observed in testes of F0 mice in which each miRNA gene was disrupted, a deletion covering miR-871 and miR-880 or covering all XmiRs (ΔXmiRs) resulted in arrested spermatogenesis in meiosis in a few seminiferous tubules, indicating their redundant functions in spermatogenesis. Among candidate targets of XmiRs, we found increased expression of a gene encoding a WNT receptor, FZD4, in ΔXmiRs testis compared with that in wildtype testis. miR-871-3p and miR-880-3p repressed the expression of Fzd4 via the 30-untranslated region of its mRNA. In addition, downstream genes of the WNT/β-catenin pathway were upregulated in ΔXmiRs testis. We also found that miR-871, miR-880, and Fzd4 were expressed in spermatogonia, spermatocytes and spermatids, and overexpression of miR-871 and miR-880 in germ stem cells in culture repressed their increase in number and Fzd4 expression. Previous studies indicated that the WNT/β-catenin pathway enhances and represses proliferation and differentiation of spermatogonia, respectively, and our results consistently showed that stable β-catenin enhanced GSC number. In addition, stable β-catenin partially rescued reduced GSC number by overexpression of miR-871 and miR-880. The results together suggest that miR-871 and miR-880 cooperatively regulate the WNT/β-catenin pathway during testicular germ cell development.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0211739
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2019 Feb


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