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PLoS One. 2012;7(4):e34566. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0034566. Epub 2012 Apr 10.

Cell-free seminal mRNA and microRNA exist in different forms.

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



The great interest in cell-free mRNA, microRNA (miRNA) as molecular biomarkers for clinical applications, and as 'signaling' molecules for intercellular communication highlights the need to reveal their physical nature. Here this issue was explored in human cell-free seminal mRNA (cfs-mRNA) and miRNA (cfs-miRNA).


Selected male reproductive organ-specific mRNAs, miRNAs, and piRNAs were quantified by quantitative real-time PCR in all experiments. While the stability of cfs-miRNA assessed by time-course analysis (up to 24 h at room temperature) was similar with cfs-mRNA, the reductive changes between cfs-miRNA and cfs-mRNA after filtration and Triton X-100 treatment on seminal plasma were very different, implying their different physical nature. Seminal microvesicles (SMVs) were then recovered and proportions of cfs-mRNA and cfs-miRNA within SMVs were quantified. The amounts of SMVs- sequestered cfs-mRNAs almost were the same as total cfs-mRNA, and were highly variable depending on the different sizes of SMVs. But most of cfs-miRNA was independent of SMVs and existed in the supernatant. The possible form of cfs-miRNA in the supernatant was further explored by filtration and protease K digestion. It passed through the 0.10-µm pore, but was degraded dramatically after intense protease K digestion.


The predominant cfs-mRNA is contained in SMVs, while most cfs-miRNA is bound with protein complexes. Our data explained the stability of extracellular RNAs in human semen, and shed light on their origins and potential functions in male reproduction, and strategy of developing them as biomarkers of male reproductive system.

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