miR-378-3p maintains the size of mouse primordial follicle pool by regulating cell autophagy and apoptosis

Xiaowen Sun, Francesca Gioia Klinger, Jing Liu, Massimo De Felici, Wei Shen and Xiaofeng Sun

Sun et al. Cell Death and Disease (2020) 11:737 https://doi.org/10.1038/s41419-020-02965-1 – published: 10 september 2020


Primordial follicle pool provides all available oocytes throughout the whole reproductive life span. Abnormal regulation in primordial follicle assembly leads to abnormal size of primordial follicle pool, even causes infertility. Here, miR-378-3p was proved to regulate mouse primordial follicle assembly both in vivo and in vitro. The expression of miR-378-3p significantly increased in mice ovaries from 17.5 dpc (days post coitum) up to 3 dpp (day post partum) compared with the expression of 16.5 dpc ovaries, which suggested that miR-378-3p was involved in primordial follicle assembly. To uncover the underlying mechanism, newborn mice ovaries were cultured in vitro in the presence of rapamycin and 3-methyladenine, which showed that the expression of miR-378-3p changed together with the percentage of primordial follicle. Moreover, during the normal process of primordial follicle assembly between
17.6 dpc and 3 dpp, autophagy is activated, while, apoptosis is inhibited. The in vivo results showed that newborn mice starved for 1.5 days showing the increased miR-378-3p, activated autophagy and inhibited apoptosis in the ovaries, had more percentage of primordial follicles. Over-expression of miR-378-3p using miR-378-3p agomir caused increased percentage of primordial follicle, increased level of autophagy, and decreased level of apoptosis. Knockdown of miR-378-3p by miR-378-3p antiagomir had the opposite results. Using pmirGLO Dual-Luciferase miRNA Target Expression system, we confirmed both PDK1 and Caspase9 were targets of miR-378-3p, which suggested that miR- 378-3p activated autophagy by targeting PDK1 and inhibited apoptosis by targeting Caspase9. MiR-378-3p could be used as a biomarker of diseases caused by abnormal size of primordial follicle pool for diagnosis, prevention, or therapy.