Spermatozoa from patients with seminal alterations exhibit a differential micro-ribonucleic acid profile

Fertil Steril. 2015 Sep;104(3):591-601. doi: 10.1016/j.fertnstert.2015.06.015. Epub 2015 Jul 2.


Objective: To compare the microRNA (miRNA) expression profile in spermatozoa from three infertile populations vs. a group of fertile men.

Design: Evaluation of the expression level of 736 miRNAs in human spermatozoa using TaqMan quantitative reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction.

Setting: University research facility.

Patient(s): Semen samples with a single seminal alteration were collected from infertile individuals: asthenozoospermic (n = 10), teratozoospermic (n = 10), and oligozoospermic (n = 10).

Intervention(s): None.

Main outcome measure(s): Correlation of the expression level of each miRNA with seminal parameters, age, and chromosome instability; clustering of the individuals according to their miRNA expression profiles and influence of the seminogram, age, chromosome instability, and assisted reproductive technology outcome in the clustering; analysis of the differentially expressed miRNAs (DE-miRNAs) in each infertile population; genome annotation of these DE-miRNAs; and ontological analysis of their predicted targets.

Result(s): The hsa-miR-34b-3p correlated with age, the hsa-miR-629-3p with sperm motility, and the hsa-miR-335-5p, hsa-miR-885-5p, and hsa-miR-152-3p with sperm concentration. The individuals clustered into two groups, and only the seminogram was differentially distributed. We identified 32 DE-miRNAs in the asthenozoospermic group, 19 in the teratozoospermic group, and 18 in the oligozoospermic group. The up-regulated miRNAs presented an enriched localization in introns, affecting relevant genes for spermatogenesis. The predicted targets of the DE-miRNAs contained critical genes associated to infertility, and their ontological analysis revealed significantly associated functions related to the seminal alterations of each group.

Conclusion(s): Spermatozoa from patients with seminal alterations exhibit a differential miRNA profile. This provides new evidence that miRNAs have an essential role in spermatogenesis, contributing to the mechanisms involved in human fertility.

Keywords: Infertility; microRNA; seminal alterations; sperm biomarkers; spermatozoa.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Asthenozoospermia / diagnosis
  • Asthenozoospermia / genetics
  • Asthenozoospermia / physiopathology
  • Azoospermia / diagnosis
  • Azoospermia / genetics
  • Azoospermia / physiopathology
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Chromosomal Instability
  • Cluster Analysis
  • Fertility / genetics*
  • Gene Expression Profiling / methods
  • Genetic Markers
  • Humans
  • Infertility, Male / diagnosis*
  • Infertility, Male / genetics*
  • Infertility, Male / physiopathology
  • Male
  • MicroRNAs / genetics*
  • Oligospermia / diagnosis
  • Oligospermia / genetics
  • Oligospermia / physiopathology
  • Paternal Age
  • Risk Factors
  • Sperm Count
  • Sperm Motility
  • Spermatozoa / chemistry*
  • Spermatozoa / pathology


  • Genetic Markers
  • MicroRNAs