Expression of miRNAs in Bull Spermatozoa Correlates with Fertility Rates

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ContentsBull spermatozoa are rich in active miRNAs, and it has been shown that specific spermborne miRNAs can be linked to fertility. Thus, expression profiling of spermatozoa could be helpful for understanding male fertility and the ability of spermatozoa to initiate and sustain zygotic, embryonic and foetal development. Herein we hypothesized that bulls with moderate to high fertility can be identified by differences in amounts of certain miRNAs between their ejaculates. RNA samples from spermatozoa of eight brother pairs (one bull with high and one with moderate NRR in each pair) of the Holstein breed were prepared. miRNA was isolated, and the expression of 178 miRNAs was determined by RT-qPCR. Important findings were that highly expressed miRNAs, not linked to NRR status, were identified in the bull sperm samples, which indicate that these miRNAs have an important role in early embryogenesis. A large fraction of the targets genes were phosphoproteins and genes involved in the regulation of transcription. Seven miRNAs (mir-502-5p, mir-1249, mir-320a, mir-34c-3p, mir-19b-3p, mir-27a-5p and mir-148b-3p) were differentially expressed between bulls with moderate and high NRR with a strong tendency towards a higher expression of miRNAs in bulls with moderate fertility. Thus, bulls with a moderate NRR negatively regulate the expression of protein-coding genes, which leads to problems during the pregnancy.

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