The similarities and differences of small RNAs in seminal plasma, epididymal sperm and ejaculated sperm remain largely undefined. We conducted a systematic comparative analysis of small RNA profiles in pig ejaculated sperm, epididymal sperm and seminal plasma and found that the diversity distribution of small RNA species was generally similar, whereas the abundance of small RNAs is dramatically different across the three libraries; miRNAs and small RNAs derived from rRNA, tRNA, small nuclear RNA, 7SK RNA, NRON RNA and cis-regulatory RNA were enriched in the three libraries, but piRNA was absent. A large population of small RNAs from ejaculated sperm are ejaculated sperm specific, and only 8–30% of small RNAs overlapped with those of epididymal sperm or seminal plasma and a small proportion (5–18%) of small RNAs were shared in the three libraries, suggesting that, in addition to the testes, sperm RNAs may also originate from seminal plasma, epididymis as well as other resources. Most miRNAs were co-distributed but differentially expressed across the three libraries, with epididymal sperm exhibiting the highest abundance, followed by ejaculated sperm and seminal plasma. The prediction of target genes of the top 10 highly expressed miRNAs across the three libraries revealed that these miRNAs may be involved in spermatogenesis, zygote development and the interaction between the environment and animals. Our study provides the first description of the similarities and differences of small RNA profiles in ejaculated sperm, epididymal sperm and seminal plasma and indicates that sperm RNA may have origins other than the testes.
Source: The journal of Reproductive Science