Microcystin-leucine arginine (MC-LR) is a harmful cyanotoxin produced by cyanobacteria. MC-LR can exert endocrine-disrupting activities in many organisms. We have previously demonstrated that MC-LR exerts both acute and chronic reproductive toxicity in male mice, resulting in a decline in sperm quality and damage to testicular structure. Moreover, we also observed extensive alterations in a panel of microRNAs in spermatogonial cells after exposure to MC-LR. In this study, we have confirmed that miR-541 was significantly increased both in GC-1 cells (in vitro) and in mouse testes (in vivo) after exposure to MC-LR. Our data support that p15 was the target gene of miR-541. Increase in miR-541 led to a reduction of p15 and murine double minute2 (MDM2), promoting the activation of p53 signaling and MC-LR-mediated cell apoptosis. Moreover, cells responded to MC-LR with reduced viability and increased apoptosis. Consistently, inhibiting miR-541 could upregulate the expression of p15 and MDM2, resulting in the downregulation of phospho-p53. Downregulation of miR-541 promoted cell viability by reducing MC-LR-induced cell apoptosis. In conclusion, we demonstrate here a crucial role for miR-541 in MC-LR-induced toxic effects on the reproductive system, in an attempt to provide a rational strategy for the diagnosis and treatment of MC-LR-induced impairment in the reproductive system.
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