Mammalian testis development and spermatogenesis play critical roles in male fertility and continuation of a species. Previous research into the molecular mechanisms of testis development and spermatogenesis has largely focused on the role of protein-coding genes and small non-coding RNAs, such as microRNAs and piRNAs. Recently, it has become apparent that large numbers of long (>200 nt) non-coding RNAs (lncRNAs) are transcribed from mammalian genomes and that lncRNAs perform important regulatory functions in various developmental processes. However, the expression of lncRNAs and their biological functions in post-natal testis development remain unknown.
In this study, researchers at Shanghai Jiao Tong University employed microarray technology to examine lncRNA expression profiles of neonatal (6-day-old) and adult (8-week-old) mouse testes. They found that 8,265 lncRNAs were expressed above background levels during post-natal testis development, of which 3,025 were differentially expressed. Candidate lncRNAs were identified for further characterization by an integrated examination of genomic context, gene ontology (GO) enrichment of their associated protein-coding genes, promoter analysis for epigenetic modification, and evolutionary conservation of elements. Many lncRNAs overlapped or were adjacent to key transcription factors and other genes involved in spermatogenesis, such as Ovol1, Ovol2, Lhx1, Sox3, Sox9, Plzf, c-Kit, Wt1, Sycp2, Prm1 and Prm2. Most differentially expressed lncRNAs exhibited epigenetic modification marks similar to protein-coding genes and tend to be expressed in a tissue-specific manner. In addition, the majority of differentially expressed lncRNAs harbored evolutionary conserved elements. Taken together, these findings represent the first systematic investigation of lncRNA expression in the mammalian testis and provide a solid foundation for further research into the molecular mechanisms of lncRNAs function in mammalian testis development and spermatogenesis.
- Sun J, Lin Y, Wu J (2013) Long Non-Coding RNA Expression Profiling of Mouse Testis during Postnatal Development. PLoS ONE 8(10), e75750. [article]