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Reproduction. 2011 Oct;142(4):539-50. doi: 10.1530/REP-11-0208. Epub 2011 Aug 4.

A novel marsupial pri-miRNA transcript has a putative role in gamete maintenance and defines a vertebrate miRNA cluster paralogous to the miR-15a/miR-16-1 cluster.

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Department of Zoology, University of Melbourne, Parkville, Victoria 3010, Australia.


Successful maintenance, survival and maturation of gametes rely on bidirectional communication between the gamete and its supporting cells. Before puberty, factors from the gamete and its supporting cells are necessary for spermatogonial stem cell and primordial follicle oocyte maintenance. Following gametogenesis, gametes rely on factors and nutrients secreted by cells of the reproductive tracts, the epididymis and/or oviduct, to complete maturation. Despite extensive studies on female and male reproduction, many of the molecular mechanisms of germ cell maintenance remain relatively unknown, particularly in marsupial species. We present the first study and characterisation of a novel primary miRNA transcript, pri-miR-16c, in the marsupial, the stripe-faced dunnart. Bioinformatic analysis showed that its predicted processed miRNA - miR-16c - is present in a wide range of vertebrates, but not eutherians. In situ hybridisation revealed dunnart pri-miR-16c expression in day 4 (primordial germ cells) and day 7 (oogonia) pouch young, in primary oocytes and follicle cells of primordial follicles but then only in follicle cells of primary, secondary and antral follicles in adult ovaries. In the adult testis, pri-miR-16c transcripts were present in the cytoplasm of spermatogonial cells. The oviduct and the epididymis both showed expression, but not any other somatic tissues examined or conceptuses during early embryonic development. This pattern of expression suggests that pri-miR-16c function may be associated with gamete maintenance, possibly through mechanisms involving RNA transfer, until the zygote enters the uterus at the pronuclear stage.

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