STAT3 signaling stimulates miR-21 expression in bovine cumulus cells during in vitro oocyte maturation

  • Publication date : 2018-08-01


Tscherner A, Brown AC, Stalker L, Kao J, Dufort I, Sirard MA, LaMarre J. STAT3 signaling stimulates miR-21 expression in bovine cumulus cells during in vitro oocyte maturation. Sci Rep. 2018 Aug 1;8(1):11527. doi: 10.1038/s41598-018-29874-w. PubMed PMID: 30068990.


  MicroRNAs are potent regulators of gene expression that have been widely implicated in reproduction and embryo development. Recent studies have demonstrated that miR-21, a microRNA extensively studied in the context of disease, is important in multiple facets of reproductive biology including folliculogenesis, ovulation, oocyte maturation and early mammalian development. Surprisingly, little is known about the mechanisms that regulate miR-21 and no studies have characterized these regulatory pathways in cumulus-oocyte complexes (COCs). We therefore investigated miR-21 in an in vitro model of bovine oocyte maturation. Levels of the primary transcript of miR-21 (pri-miR-21) and mature miR-21 increased markedly in COCs over the maturation period. Cloning of the bovine pri-miR-21 gene and promoter by 5'3'RACE (rapid amplification of cDNA ends) revealed a highly conserved region immediately upstream of the transcription start site and two alternatively-spliced variants of pri-miR-21. The promoter region contained several putative transcription factor binding sites, including two for signal transducer and activator of transcription 3 (STAT3). Mutation of these sites significantly decreased both the intrinsic activity of pri-miR-21 promoter-luciferase constructs and the response to leukemia inhibitory factor (LIF) (a STAT3 activator) in cultured MCF7 cells. In COCs, treatment with a STAT3 pathway inhibitor markedly decreased pri-miR-21 expression and prevented cumulus expansion. Pri-miR-21 expression was also inhibited by the protein synthesis inhibitor cycloheximide, suggesting that a protein ligand or signaling cofactor synthesized during maturation is necessary for transcription. Together these studies represent the first investigation of signaling pathways that directly influence miR-21 expression in bovine oocytes and cumulus cells.