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Chang-Jiang Wang, Fei Gao, Yi-Jie Huang, Dong-Xu Han, Yi Zheng, Wen-Hua Wang, Hao Jiang, Yan Gao, Bao Yuan, and Jia-Bao Zhang

The pituitary gland functions as a prominent regulator of diverse physiologic processes by secreting multiple hormones. Circular RNAs (circRNAs) are an emerging novel type of endogenous noncoding RNA that have recently been recognized as powerful regulators participating in various biological processes. However, the physiological roles and molecular mechanisms of circRNAs in pituitary remain largely unclear. Herein, we concentrated on expounding the biological function and molecular mechanism of circRNA in rat pituitary. In this study, we identified a novel circRNA in pituitary tissue, circAkap17b, which was pituitary- and stage-specific. Then, we designed circAkap17b siRNA and constructed an overexpression plasmid to evaluate the effect of loss- and gain-of-circAkap17b function on FSH secretion. Interestingly, silencing circAkakp17b significantly inhibited FSH expression and secretion, while overexpression of circAkap17b enhanced FSH expression and secretion. Furthermore, dual luciferase reporter and RNA immunoprecipitation (RIP) assays confirmed that circAkap17b could serve as miR-7 sponge to regulate target genes. Additionally, miR-7b suppressed FSH expression and secretion by directly targeting Fshb through the dual luciferase reporter and RT-qPCR analysis. Additionally, rescue experiments showed that circAkap17b could regulate FSH secretion in pituitary cells through a circAkap17b-miR-7-Fshb axis. Collectively, we demonstrated that circAkap17b could act as a molecular sponge of miR-7 to upregulate expression of the target gene Fshb and facilitate FSH secretion. These findings provide evidence for a novel regulatory role of circRNAs in pituitary.