The presence, role and clinical use of spermatozoal RNAs

Meritxell Jodar, Sellappan Selvaraju, Edward Sendler, Michael P. Diamond, Stephen A. Krawetz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

252 Scopus citations


background: Spermatozoa are highly differentiated, transcriptionally inert cells characterized by a compact nucleus with minimal cytoplasm. Nevertheless they contain a suite of unique RNAs that are delivered to oocyte upon fertilization. They are likely integrated as part of many different processes including genome recognition, consolidation-confrontation, early embryonic development and epigenetic transgenerational inherence. Spermatozoal RNAs also provide a window into the developmental history of each sperm thereby providing biomarkers of fertility and pregnancy outcome which are being intensely studied. methods: Literature searches were performed to review the majority of spermatozoal RNA studies that described potential functions and clinical applications with emphasis on Next-Generation Sequencing. Human, mouse, bovine and stallion were compared as their distribution and composition of spermatozoal RNAs, using these techniques, have been described. results: Comparisons highlighted the complexity of the population of spermatozoal RNAs that comprises rRNA,mRNAand both large and small non-coding RNAs. RNA-seq analysis has revealed that only a fraction of the larger RNAs retain their structure. While rRNAs are the most abundant and are highly fragmented, ensuring a translationally quiescent state, other RNAs including some mRNAs retain their functional potential, thereby increasing the opportunity for regulatory interactions. Abundant small non-coding RNAs retained in spermatozoa include miRNAs and piRNAs. Some, like miR-34c are essential to the early embryo development required for the first cellular division. Others like the piRNAs are likely part of the genomic dance of confrontation and consolidation. Other non-coding spermatozoal RNAs include transposable elements, annotated lnc-RNAs, intronic retained elements, exonic elements, chromatin-associated RNAs, small-nuclear ILF3/NF30 associated RNAs, quiescent RNAs, mse-tRNAs and YRNAs. Some non-coding RNAs are known to act as epigenetic modifiers, inducing histone modifications and DNA methylation, perhaps playing a role in transgenerational epigenetic inherence. Transcript profiling holds considerable potential for the discovery of fertility biomarkers for both agriculture and human medicine. Comparing the differential RNA profiles of infertile and fertile individuals as well as assessing species similarities, should resolve the regulatory pathways contributing to male factor infertility. conclusions: Dad delivers a complex population of RNAs to the oocyte at fertilization that likely influences fertilization, embryo development, the phenotype of the offspring and possibly future generations. Development is continuing on the use of spermatozoal RNA profiles as phenotypic markers of male factor status for use as clinical diagnostics of the father's contribution to the birth of a healthy child.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberdmt031
Pages (from-to)604-624
Number of pages21
JournalHuman Reproduction Update
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 2013


  • Embryogenesis
  • Epigenetics modifiers
  • Fertility biomarkers
  • Spermatozoal RNA
  • Transgenerational epigenetic inherence

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Reproductive Medicine
  • Obstetrics and Gynecology


Dive into the research topics of 'The presence, role and clinical use of spermatozoal RNAs'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this