BackgroundNon-obstructive azoospermia (NOA) is a multifactorial disorder whose molecular basis remains largely unknown. Circular RNAs (CircRNAs), a novel class of endogenous RNAs, have been recognized to play important roles in many biological processes. However, little is known about the expression patterns and functions of circRNAs in human testes involved in NOA.MethodsIn this study, the testicular circRNA expression profile were explored in NOA patients and the controls by high-throughput circRNA microarray. Real-time quantitative reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (qRT-PCR) was performed to confirm the microarray data. Bioinformatics analyses including the circRNA/miRNA/mRNA interaction network, Gene Ontology (GO) and Kyoto Encyclopedia of Genes and Genomes (KEGG) pathway analysis were used to predict the functions of differentially expressed circRNAs.ResultsA total of 368 differentially down-regulated and 526 up-regulated circRNAs were detected in NOA patients. These findings have been verified by qRT-PCR on 6 selected circRNAs. Among these differentially expressed circRNAs, the hsa_circRNA_0023313 was obviously up-regulated in testicular tissue of NOA patients. The most likely potential target miRNA for hsa_circRNA_0023313 include hsa-miR-520d-3p, hsa-miR-373-3p, hsa-miR-372-3p, hsa-miR-302c-3p and hsa-miR-130b-5p. Function analysis indicated that hsa_circRNA_0023313 was ubiquitin-protein transferase activity and chromatin binding. KEGG analysis revealed that the top five pathways related to hsa_circRNA_0023313 were endocytosis, meiosis, FoxO signaling pathway, ubiquitin mediated proteolysis and AMPK signaling pathway.ConclusionsThis is the first report that the testicular circRNA expression profile is altered in NOA patients indicating circRNAs might play important roles in regulating spermatogenesis and be potential biomarkers for the diagnosis and treatment of NOA.