MicroRNAs in Sertoli cells: implications for spermatogenesis and fertility

Cell Tissue Res. 2017 Dec;370(3):335-346. doi: 10.1007/s00441-017-2667-z. Epub 2017 Aug 4.


In recent decades, infertility has been considered a major widespread public health issue of very high concern. Currently, almost 50% of infertility cases are due to male factors, including semen disorders, obstructions, cryptorchidism, varicocele and testicular failures, which can occur due to malfunctions in both somatic and germ cells. In this context, besides other approaches, different miRNAs have been used as biomarkers for the diagnosis of male infertility, with different pathologic conditions such as Sertoli cell-only syndrome, mixed atrophy, and germ cell arrest. However, most studies related to male fertility do not point out the functions and cell targets of the described miRNAs. Initial investigations using experimental assays in murine and porcine models were performed, providing the first evidence of the influence of miRNAs on Sertoli cell function including, for instance, proliferation, maturation and hormone responses of these cells. The aim of this mini-review is therefore to summarize our present knowledge of this relevant subject and to highlight the importance of future investigations concerning the miRNA influence in the control of Sertoli cells, spermatogenesis and male fertility.

Keywords: Germ cells; Infertility; Sertoli cell; Spermatogenesis; Testis; miRNA.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Proliferation / genetics
  • DEAD-box RNA Helicases / genetics
  • Genetic Markers / genetics
  • Humans
  • Infertility, Male / genetics*
  • Male
  • MicroRNAs / genetics*
  • Ribonuclease III / genetics
  • Sertoli Cell-Only Syndrome / diagnosis
  • Sertoli Cell-Only Syndrome / genetics
  • Sertoli Cells / metabolism*
  • Spermatogenesis / genetics*
  • Spermatogenesis / physiology
  • Swine
  • Testis / physiopathology


  • Genetic Markers
  • MicroRNAs
  • DICER1 protein, human
  • Ribonuclease III
  • DEAD-box RNA Helicases