Advanced paternal age at fertilization is a risk factor for multiple disorders in offspring and may be linked to age-related epigenetic changes in the father’s sperm. An understanding of aging-related epigenetic changes in sperm and environmental factors that modify such changes is needed. Here, we characterize changes in sperm small non-coding RNA (sncRNA) between young pubertal and mature rats. We also analyze the modification of these changes by exposure to environmental xenobiotic 2,2′,4,4′-tetrabromodiphenyl ether (BDE-47). sncRNA libraries prepared from epididymal spermatozoa were sequenced and analyzed using DESeq 2. The distribution of small RNA fractions changed with age, with fractions mapping to rRNA and lncRNA decreasing and fractions mapping to tRNA and miRNA increasing. In total, 249 miRNA, 908 piRNA and 227 tRNA-derived RNA were differentially expressed (twofold change, false discovery rate (FDR) p ≤ 0.05) between age groups in control animals. Differentially expressed miRNA and piRNA were enriched for protein-coding targets involved in development and metabolism, while piRNA were enriched for long terminal repeat (LTR) targets. BDE-47 accelerated age-dependent changes in sncRNA in younger animals, decelerated these changes in older animals and increased the variance in expression of all sncRNA. Our results indicate that the natural aging process has profound effects on sperm sncRNA profiles and this effect may be modified by environmental exposure.
- 2,2,4,4-tetrabromodiphenyl ether
- Paternal exposure