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Dynamics of cattle sperm sncRNAs during maturation, from testis to ejaculated sperm
Epigenetics & Chromatin  (IF4.954),  Pub Date : 2021-05-24, DOI: 10.1186/s13072-021-00397-5
Eli Sellem, Sylvain Marthey, Andrea Rau, Luc Jouneau, Aurelie Bonnet, Chrystelle Le Danvic, Benoît Guyonnet, Hélène Kiefer, Hélène Jammes, Laurent Schibler

During epididymal transit, spermatozoa go through several functional maturation steps, resulting from interactions with epididymal secretomes specific to each region. In particular, the sperm membrane is under constant remodeling, with sequential attachment and shedding of various molecules provided by the epididymal lumen fluid and epididymosomes, which also deliver sncRNA cargo to sperm. As a result, the payload of sperm sncRNAs changes during the transit from the epididymis caput to the cauda. This work was designed to study the dynamics of cattle sperm sncRNAs from spermatogenesis to final maturation. Comprehensive catalogues of sperm sncRNAs were obtained from testicular parenchyma, epididymal caput, corpus and cauda, as well as ejaculated semen from three Holstein bulls. The primary cattle sncRNA sperm content is markedly remodeled as sperm mature along the epididymis. Expression of piRNAs, which are abundant in testis parenchyma, decreases dramatically at epididymis. Conversely, sperm progressively acquires miRNAs, rsRNAs, and tsRNAs along epididymis, with regional specificities. For instance, miRNAs and tsRNAs are enriched in epididymis cauda and ejaculated sperm, while rsRNA expression peaks at epididymis corpus. In addition, epididymis corpus contains mainly 20 nt long piRNAs, instead of 30 nt in all other locations. Beyond the bulk differences in abundance of sncRNAs classes, K-means clustering was performed to study their spatiotemporal expression profile, highlighting differences in specific sncRNAs and providing insights into their putative biological role at each maturation stage. For instance, Gene Ontology analyses using miRNA targets highlighted enriched processes such as cell cycle regulation, response to stress and ubiquitination processes in testicular parenchyma, protein metabolism in epididymal sperm, and embryonic morphogenesis in ejaculated sperm. Our findings confirm that the sperm sncRNAome does not simply reflect a legacy of spermatogenesis. Instead, sperm sncRNA expression shows a remarkable level of plasticity resulting probably from the combination of multiple factors such as loss of the cytoplasmic droplet, interaction with epididymosomes, and more surprisingly, the putative in situ production and/or modification of sncRNAs by sperm. Given the suggested role of sncRNA in epigenetic trans-generational inheritance, our detailed spatiotemporal analysis may pave the way for a study of sperm sncRNAs role in embryo development.