The RNase III enzyme DROSHA is essential for microRNA production and spermatogenesis


DROSHA is a nuclear RNase III enzyme responsible for cleaving primary microRNAs (miRNAs) into precursor miRNAs and thus is essential for the biogenesis of canonical miRNAs. DICER is a cytoplasmic RNase III enzyme that not only cleaves precursor miRNAs to produce mature miRNAs but also dissects naturally formed/synthetic double-stranded RNAs to generate small interfering RNAs (siRNAs). To investigate the role of canonical miRNA and/or endogenous siRNA production in spermatogenesis, we generated Drosha or Dicer conditional knock-out (cKO) mouse lines by inactivating Drosha or Dicer exclusively in spermatogenic cells in postnatal testes using the Cre-loxp strategy. Both Drosha and Dicer cKO males were infertile due to disrupted spermatogenesis characterized by depletion of spermatocytes and spermatids leading to oligoteratozoospermia or azoospermia. The developmental course of spermatogenic disruptions was similar at morphological levels between Drosha and Dicer cKO males, but Drosha cKO testes appeared to be more severe in spermatogenic disruptions than Dicer cKO testes. Microarray analyses revealed transcriptomic differences between Drosha- and Dicer-null pachytene spermatocytes or round spermatids. Although levels of sex-linked mRNAs were mildly elevated, meiotic sex chromosome inactivation appeared to have occurred normally. Our data demonstrate that unlike DICER, which is required for the biogenesis of several small RNA species, DROSHA is essential mainly for the canonical miRNA production, and DROSHA-mediated miRNA production is essential for normal spermatogenesis and male fertility.

Journal details

Volume 287
Issue number 30
Pages 25173-25190
Publication date