miRNA and mammalian male germ cells

S. C. Mciver, S. D. Roman, B. Nixon, E. A. Mclaughlin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

122 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Achieving the correct spatial and temporal expression of germ-cell-specific genes is fundamental to the production of viable healthy spermatozoa. Notably, post-transcriptional gene regulation resulting in the repression of protein translation is central to many embryonic processes, and is particularly active during spermatogenesis. In this review, we discuss microRNA (miRNA) regulation of target gene expression in relation to mammalian spermatogenesis, the establishment of testicular germ cell tumours (TGCT) and the potential use of miRNA manipulation for cancer therapy and fertility regulation. Methods: Journal databases such as PubMed were searched using key words, including miRNA, testis, spermatogenesis, germ cell, testicular cancer and cancer. Results: In the past decade, the deployment of small non-coding RNA molecules, including miRNA, by the cell, has been recognized as among the most important mechanisms of fine-tuning translational regulation in differentiating cell types. For key regulators of male gametogenesis, high levels of gene expression do not always correspond to elevated levels of protein expression. Cumulatively this indicates that enhancement and repression of post-transcriptional regulatory mechanisms are essential to the success of spermatogenesis. There is also growing evidence that this form of regulation contributes to the aetiology of both TGCT and spermatocytic tumours. Conclusions: miRNA plays an essential role in regulation of genes during the process of spermatogenesis. Disruption of this regulation has the ability to contribute to the neoplastic development of germ cell tumours. However, targeted knockdown of specific miRNA molecules has the potential to form both anti-oncogenic reagents and underpin the basis for novel contraceptive technologies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)44-59
Number of pages16
JournalHuman Reproduction Update
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2012
Externally publishedYes


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