Targeted Disruption of miR-17-92 Impairs Mouse Spermatogenesis by Activating mTOR Signaling Pathway

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The miR-17-92 cluster and its 6 different mature microRNAs, including miR-17, miR-18a, miR-19a, miR-20a, miR-19b-1, and miR-92a, play important roles in embryo development, immune system, kidney and heart development, adipose differentiation, aging, and tumorigenicity. Currently, increasing evidence indicates that some members of miR-17-92 cluster may be critical players in spermatogenesis, including miR-17, miR-18a, and miR-20a. However, the roles and underlying mechanisms of miR-17-92 in spermatogenesis remain largely unknown. Our results showed that the targeted disruption of miR-17-92 in the testes of adult mice resulted in severe testicular atrophy, empty seminiferous tubules, and depressed sperm production. This phenotype is partly because of the reduced number of spermatogonia and spermatogonial stem cells, and the significantly increased germ cell apoptosis in the testes of miR-17-92-deficient mice. In addition, overactivation of the mammalian target of rapamycin signaling pathway and upregulation of the pro-apoptotic protein Bim, Stat3, c-Kit, and Socs3 were also observed in miR-17-92-deficient mouse testes, which might be, at least partially if not all, responsible for the aforementioned phenotypic changes in mutant testes. Taken together, these findings suggest that miR-17-92 is essential for normal spermatogenesis in mice.

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