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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2011 Aug 2;108(31):12740-5. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1109987108. Epub 2011 Jul 18.

MicroRNA-21 regulates the self-renewal of mouse spermatogonial stem cells.

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  • 1Department of Animal Biology, School of Veterinary Medicine, and Penn Bioinformatics Core, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA 19104, USA.

Abstract

MicroRNAs (miRs) play a key role in the control of gene expression in a wide array of tissue systems, where their functions include the regulation of self-renewal, cellular differentiation, proliferation, and apoptosis. However, the functional importance of individual miRs in controlling spermatogonial stem cell (SSC) homeostasis has not been investigated. Using high-throughput sequencing, we profiled the expression of miRs in the Thy1(+) testis cell population, which is highly enriched for SSCs, and the Thy1(-) cell population, composed primarily of testis somatic cells. In addition, we profiled the global expression of miRs in cultured germ cells, also enriched for SSCs. Our results demonstrate that miR-21, along with miR-34c, -182, -183, and -146a, are preferentially expressed in the Thy1(+) SSC-enriched population, compared with Thy1(-) somatic cells. Importantly, we demonstrate that transient inhibition of miR-21 in SSC-enriched germ cell cultures increased the number of germ cells undergoing apoptosis and significantly reduced the number of donor-derived colonies of spermatogenesis formed from transplanted treated cells in recipient mouse testes, indicating that miR-21 is important in maintaining the SSC population. Moreover, we show that in SSC-enriched germ cell cultures, miR-21 is regulated by the transcription factor ETV5, known to be critical for SSC self-renewal.

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