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Identification and characterization of circular RNAs in the testicular tissue of patients with non-obstructive azoospermia


1 Department of Urology, Peking University Third Hospital, Beijing 100191, China
2 Department of Andrology, Peking University Third Hospital, Beijing 100191, China
3 Department of Reproductive Medicine Center, Peking University Third Hospital, Beijing 100191, China
4 Department of Pathology, School of Basic Medical Sciences, Peking University Health Science Center, Beijing 100191, China

Correspondence Address:
Hui Liang,
Department of Pathology, School of Basic Medical Sciences, Peking University Health Science Center, Beijing 100191, China
China
Hui Jiang,
Department of Urology, Peking University Third Hospital, Beijing 100191; Department of Andrology, Peking University Third Hospital, Beijing 100191; Department of Reproductive Medicine Center, Peking University Third Hospital, Beijing 100191
China
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/aja2021131

Circular RNAs (circRNAs) are highly conserved and ubiquitously expressed noncoding RNAs that participate in multiple reproduction-related diseases. However, the expression pattern and potential functions of circRNAs in the testes of patients with non-obstructive azoospermia (NOA) remain elusive. In this study, according to a circRNA array, a total of 37 881 circRNAs were identified that were differentially expressed in the testes of NOA patients compared with normal controls, including 19 874 upregulated circRNAs and 18 007 downregulated circRNAs. Using quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction (qRT-PCR) analysis, we confirmed that the change tendency of some specific circRNAs, including hsa_circ_0137890, hsa_circ_0136298, and hsa_circ_0007273, was consistent with the microarray data in another larger sample. The structures and characteristics of these circRNAs were confirmed by Sanger sequencing, and fluorescence in situ hybridization revealed that these circRNAs were primarily expressed in the cytoplasm. Bioinformatics analysis was used to construct the competing endogenous RNA (ceRNA) network, and numerous miRNAs that could be paired with circRNAs validated in this study were reported to be vital for spermatogenesis regulation. Gene Ontology and Kyoto Encyclopedia of Genes and Genomes pathway enrichment analyses indicated that genes involved in axoneme assembly, microtubule-based processes, and cell proliferation were significantly enriched. Our data suggest that there are aberrantly expressed circRNA profiles in patients with NOA and that these circRNAs may help identify key diagnostic and therapeutic molecular biomarkers for NOA patients.


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