Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a common endocrine and metabolic disorder in reproductive women and is characterized by polycystic ovaries, hyperandrogenism and chronic anovulation. Abnormal folliculogenesis is considered as a common characteristic of PCOS. Our aim is to identify the altered circRNA expression profile in exosomes isolated from follicular fluid (FF) of PCOS patients to investigate the molecular function of exosomal circRNA, as a vital mediator in follicular microenvironment, in the aetiology and pathobiology of PCOS. In this study, the circRNA expression profile of FF exosomes were compared between PCOS and control patients by RNA sequencing (N=5 vs 5). Sixteen circRNAs showed significantly different expression. GO and KEGG pathway analyses indicated that their parental genes were enriched in PCOS-related pathways, including ovarian steroidogenesis, aldosterone synthesis and secretion, and Jak-STAT signaling. Among sixteen differentially expressed circRNAs, hsa_circ_0006877 (circLDLR) was processed from its parental LDLR (low density lipoprotein receptor) transcript, which participated in ovarian steroidogenesis. Its depletion in PCOS FF exosomes was further verified in an additional cohort (N=25 vs 25) by qRT-PCR. And a circLDLR-miR-1294-CYP19A1 competing endogenous RNA (ceRNA) network was predicted by cytoscape software, and confirmed by luciferase assay and correlative expression in the cumulus cells of PCOS patients. Mechanistically, the intercellular transfer of functional circLDLR assay and its withdrawal experiments in KGN cells showed that depleting circLDLR in exosomes increased miR-1294 expression and inhibited CYP19A1 expression in recipient cells, as well as reduced their estrogen (E2) secretion. Our findings revealed a ceRNA network of circLDLR and provided new information on abnormal follicle development in PCOS.
Keywords: CYP19A1; PCOS; circLDLR; exosome; folliculogenesis.