Circadian regulation of apolipoprotein gene expression affects testosterone production in mouse testis

Luda Yang, Tiantian Ma, Lijia Zhao, Haizhen Jiang, Jing Zhang, Dongyao Liu, Linlin Zhang, Xiaoyu Wang, Tao Pan, Haisen Zhang, Aihua Wang, Hsu Wen Chao, Yaping Jin, Huatao Chen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)


The circadian clock system plays an important role in regulating testosterone synthesis in mammals. Male Bmal1−/− mice are infertile with low serum testosterone levels and decreased expression of testicular steroidogenic genes, suggesting that circadian clock genes regulate testosterone biosynthesis by activating steroidogenic gene transcription. However, whether the circadian clock regulates testosterone production via other genes remains unknown. Using Bmal1−/− mice and their wild-type (WT) siblings, we aimed to identify additional genes by which the circadian clock regulates testosterone synthesis. WT and Bmal1−/− mouse testes sections had similar normal morphologies, although there was a decrease in testicular spermatozoa in the Bmal1−/− mice. Low serum testosterone levels were detected in the Bmal1−/− mice. RNA sequencing identified 37 and 48 genes that were differentially expressed between WT and Bmal1−/− mouse testes at circadian time (CT2 and CT14), respectively. The cholesterol metabolism pathway was significantly enriched in the KEGG pathway analysis, and there was lower expression of three apolipoprotein genes (Apoa1, Apoa2, and Apoc3) at CT2 in the testes of Bmal1−/− mice than in those of WT mice. These decreases in Apoa1, Apoa2, and Apoc3 expression were verified by quantitative polymerase chain reaction analysis, which also revealed downregulation of the expression of the circadian clock (Per2, Dbp, and Nr1d1) and steroidogenic (StAR, Cyp11a1, and Hsd17b3) genes. The expression of circadian clock genes was relatively stable in WT mice over a 20-h period, whereas there was clear circadian rhythmic expression of Apoa1, Apoa2, Apoc3, StAR, Cyp11a1, Hsd3b2, and Hsd17b3. Bmal1−/− mice showed severely reduced expression of testicular circadian clock genes at three time points (CT4, CT12, and CT20), and a reduction in mRNA expression levels of Apo (Apoa1, Apoa2, and Apoc3) and steroidogenic (StAR, Cyp11a1, Hsd3b2, and Hsd17b3) genes. Oil Red O staining showed decreased lipid aggregation in the Leydig cells of Bmal1−/− mouse testes. Considering the vital role of Apo genes in high-density lipoprotein formation and cholesterol transport, the present data suggest that the circadian clock system regulates testosterone production by orchestrating the rhythmic expression of Apo genes. These data extend our understanding of the role of the circadian clock in regulating testosterone production in mammals.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)9-19
Number of pages11
Publication statusPublished - Oct 15 2021


  • Apoa1
  • Bmal1
  • Cholesterol transport
  • Circadian clock
  • Testosterone

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Small Animals
  • Food Animals
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Equine


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