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Shu-Fang Wang, Xi-Hua Chen, Bin He, De-Dong Yin, Hai-Jun Gao, Hao-Qi Zhao, Nan Nan, Shi-Ge Guo, Jian-Bing Liu, Bin Wu and Xiang-Bo Xu

Stress impacts the reproductive axis at the level of the hypothalamus and the pituitary gland, which exert an effect on the ovary. Menstruation is regulated by the hypothalamic–pituitary–ovary (HPO) axis. However, the role of stress in menstruation remains unclear. The objective of this study was to explore the role of stress in endometrial breakdown and shedding, using the pseudopregnant mouse menstrual-like model. Female mice were mated with vasectomized males and labeled day 0.5, upon observation of a vaginal seminal plug. On day 3.5, decidualization was induced in pseudopregnant mice using arachis oil. On day 5.5, pseudopregnant mice with artificial decidualization were placed in restraint tubes for 3 h. The findings indicated that acute restraint stress resulted in the disintegration of the endometrium. While corticosterone concentration in the serum increased significantly due to restraint stress, follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), luteinizing hormone (LH) and progesterone (P4) levels in the serum decreased significantly. An endometrial histology examination indicated that progesterone implants may rescue P4 decline caused by acute stress and block endometrium breakdown and shedding. In addition, mice were treated with metyrapone, an inhibitor of corticosterone synthesis, 1 h prior to being subjected to restraint stress. Interestingly, metyrapone not only inhibited stress-induced endometrium breakdown and shedding, but also prevented stress-induced reduction of P4, LH and FSH. Furthermore, real-time PCR and western blot showed that mRNA and protein expression of CYP11A1 (cytochrome P450, family 11, subfamily A, polypeptide 1) and steroidogenic acute regulatory protein (StAR), the two rate-limiting enzymes for progesterone synthesis in the ovary, decreased following acute stress. But metyrapone prevented the reduction of StAR expression induced by restraint stress. Overall, this study revealed that acute stress results in an increase in corticosterone, which may inhibit LH and FSH release in the serum and CYP11A1 and StAR expression in the ovary, which finally leads to the breakdown and shedding of the endometrium. These experimental findings, based on the mouse model, may enable further understanding of the effects of stress on menstruation regulation and determine the potential factors affecting stress-associated menstrual disorders.

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Isabelle Hue, Isabelle Dufort, Anaïs Vitorino Carvalho, Denis Laloe, Nathalie Peynot, Séverine Aude Degrelle, Christoph Viebahn and Marc-André Sirard

Embryo transfer in cattle is performed with blastocysts produced in vivo or in vitro using defined media. However, outdated systems such as those that use serum and co-culture remain of interest for research purposes. Here, we investigated the effect of additional culture time on in vitro-produced embryos. Specifically, we compared embryos that formed a blastocoel at different times after fertilisation to those that stayed in culture for up to two additional days with respect to their development in vivo after temporary transfer to oestrus-synchronised recipients. A pre-transfer set (D6, D6+1, D6+2, D7, D7+1, D8) was examined using microarray analyses and correlated with a post-transfer set that included two different days of transfer (D6-T6, D6+2-T8, D7+1-T8, D8-T8). All surviving conceptuses reached primitive-streak stages and filamentous sizes similarly to in vivo (D18) or in vitro controls (D7/T7). The recovery rate differed between D6 and D8 embryos that were immediately transferred (58 vs 25%). With an intermediate survival rate (33%), the D6 embryos with two additional days in culture produced nine times more IFN-tau (IFNT) at D18 than the D6 embryos that were immediately transferred. At the end of culture, D6 and D6+2 embryos displayed the highest number of gene expression differences. Despite a mortality of 40–60%, no signature was detectable in any of the transferred groups that would account for the embryos’ fates. Initially reputed to be beneficial in producing more blastocysts, our culture system of B2 medium plus serum and co-culture generated blastocysts that were distinct from those developed in vivo (D7).

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Yu Du, Zhibing Zhang, Wenqian Xiong, Na Li, Hengwei Liu, Haitang He, Qi Li, Yi Liu and Ling Zhang

Endometriosis is an estrogen-dependent benign gynecological disease that shares some common features of malignancy. Epithelial–mesenchymal transition (EMT) has been recognized as a core mechanism of endometriosis. MALAT1 is widely known as EMT promoter, while miR200 family members (miR200s) are considered as EMT inhibitors. Previous studies have reported that MALAT1 upregulation and miR200s downregulation are observed in endometriosis. MiR200c has been regarded as the strongest member of miR200s to interact with MALAT1. However, whether MALAT1/miR200c regulates EMT remains largely unclear. In this study, the roles of miR200s and MALAT1 in ectopic endometrium were investigated. Additionally, the effects of E2 on EMT and MALAT1/miR200s were examined in both EECs and Ishikawa cells. Notably, E2 could upregulate MALAT1 and downregulate miR200s expression levels and induce EMT in EECs and Ishikawa cells. PHTPP, an ERβ antagonist, could reverse the effect of E2. Overexpression of miR200c and knockdown of MALAT1 significantly inhibited E2-mediated EMT, suggesting that both miR200c and MALAT1 are involved in the E2-induced EMT process in endometriosis. In addition, a reciprocal inhibition was found between miR200s and MALAT1. Therefore, the role of MALAT1/miR200c in EMT is influenced by the presence of estrogen during endometriosis development.

Open access

Belinda K M Lo, Sairah Sheikh and Suzannah A Williams

Follicle development requires complex and coordinated interactions between both the oocyte and its associated somatic cells. In ovarian dysfunction, follicle development may be abnormal due to defective somatic cell function; for example, premature ovarian insufficiency or malignancies. Replacing defective somatic cells, using the reaggregated ovary (RO) technique, may ‘rescue’ follicle development. ROs containing mature follicles have been generated when transplanted to a host mouse to develop. We have developed a RO culture technique and the aims were to determine how follicle development differed between transplanted and cultured ROs, and the influence of ovarian age (P2 vs P6). Mouse ROs were cultured for 14 days; P2 and P6 ovaries cultured as Controls. Follicle development was compared to ROs transplanted for 14 days and ovaries from P16 and P20 mice. ROs generated from either P2 or P6 exhibited similar follicle development in culture whereas in vivo follicle development was more advanced in P6 ROs. Follicles were more developed in cultured ROs than transplanted ROs. However, follicles in cultured ROs and ovaries had smaller oocytes with fewer theca and granulosa cells than in vivo counterparts. Our results demonstrate the fluidity of follicle development despite ovary dissociation and that environment is more important to basal lamina formation and theca cell development. Furthermore, follicle development within cultured ROs appears to be independent of oocyte nest breakdown and primordial follicle formation in source ovaries. Our results highlight the need for understanding follicle development in vitro, particularly in the development of the RO technique as a potential fertility treatment.

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Vitor Braga Rissi, Werner Giehl Glanzner, Mariana Priotto de Macedo, Lady Katerine Serrano Mujica, Karine Campagnolo, Karina Gutierrez, Alessandra Bridi, Hernan Baldassarre, Paulo Bayard Dias Gonçalves and Vilceu Bordignon

Insufficient epigenetic reprogramming is incompatible with normal development of embryos produced by somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT), but treatment with histone deacetylases inhibitors (HDACi) enhances development of SCNT embryos. However, the mechanisms underpinning HDACi benefits in SCNT embryos remain largely uncharacterized. We hypothesized that, in addition to enhancing reprogramming, HDACi treatment may promote expression of genes not required for early development of SCNT embryos. To test this hypothesis, RNA synthesis was inhibited by treating bovine SCNT embryos with 5,6-dichlorobenzimidazole 1-β-D-ribofuranoside (DBR), which were concomitantly treated or not with Scriptaid (Scrip; an HDACi). Development to the blastocyst stage was significantly increased by treatment with Scrip alone (26.6%) or associated with DRB (28.6%) compared to Control (17.9%). The total number of nuclei was significantly improved only in embryos that were treated with both Scrip + DRB. Nuclear decondensation after SCNT was significantly increased by DRB treatment either alone or associated with Scrip. The relative mRNA expression, evaluated during the embryo genome activation (EGA) transition, revealed that some KDMs (KDM1A, KDM3A, KDM4C and KDM6A) and DNMT1 where prematurely expressed in Scrip-treated embryos. However, treatment with Scrip + DRB inhibited early mRNA expression of those genes, as well as several other KDMs (KDM4A, KDM4B, KDM5A, KDM5B, KDM5C and KDM7A) compared to embryos treated with Scrip alone. These findings revealed that HDACi improved development in SCNT embryos compared to Control, but altered the expression of genes involved in epigenetic regulation and did not improve embryo quality. Inhibition of RNA synthesis during HDACi treatment enhanced nuclear chromatin decondensation, modulated gene expression and improved SCNT embryo quality.

Free access

Tomer Avidor-Reiss and Emily L Fishman

Cells that divide during embryo development require precisely two centrioles during interphase and four centrioles during mitosis. This precise number is maintained by allowing each centriole to nucleate only one centriole per cell cycle (i.e. centriole duplication). Yet, how the first cell of the embryo, the zygote, obtains two centrioles has remained a mystery in most mammals and insects. The mystery arose because the female gamete (oocyte) is thought to have no functional centrioles and the male gamete (spermatozoon) is thought to have only one functional centriole, resulting in a zygote with a single centriole. However, recent studies in fruit flies, beetles and mammals, including humans, suggest an alternative explanation: spermatozoa have a typical centriole and an atypical centriole. The sperm typical centriole has a normal structure but distinct protein composition, whereas the sperm atypical centriole is distinct in both. During fertilization, the atypical centriole is released into the zygote, nucleates a new centriole and participates in spindle pole formation. Thus, the spermatozoa’s atypical centriole acts as a second centriole in the zygote. Here, we review centriole biology in general and especially in reproduction, we describe the discovery of the spermatozoon atypical centriole, and we provide an updated model for centriole inherence during sexual reproduction. While we focus on humans and other non-rodent mammals, we also provide a broader evolutionary perspective.

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Songcun Wang, Fengrun Sun, Mutian Han, Yinghua Liu, Qinyan Zou, Fuxin Wang, Yu Tao, Dajin Li, Meirong Du, Hong Li and Rui Zhu

There is delicate crosstalk between fetus-derived trophoblasts (Tros) and maternal cells during normal pregnancy. Dysfunctions in interaction are highly linked to some pregnancy complications, such as recurrent spontaneous abortion (RSA), pre-eclampsia and fetal growth restriction. Hyaluronan (HA), the most abundant component of extracellular matrix, has been reported to act as both a pro- and an anti-inflammatory molecule. Previously, we reported that HA promotes the invasion and proliferation of Tros by activating PI3K/Akt and MAPK/ERK1/2 signaling pathways. While lower HA secretion by Tros was observed during miscarriages than that during normal pregnancies, in the present study, we further confirmed that higher secretion of HA by Tros could induce M2 polarization of macrophages at the maternal–fetal interface by interacting with CD44 and activating the downstream PI3K/Akt-STAT-3/STAT-6 signaling pathways. Furthermore, HA could restore the production of IL-10 and other normal pregnancy markers by decidual macrophages (dMφs) from RSA. These findings underline the important roles of HA in regulating the function of dMφs and maintaining a normal pregnancy.

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Lisa Akison, Karen Moritz and Natasha Reid

Fetal alcohol exposure results in well-characterised neuro-behavioural deficits in offspring, which form the basis for diagnosing fetal alcohol spectrum disorder. However, there is increasing interest in the full range of health complications that can arise in children and adults with this disorder. We used a systematic review approach to locate all clinical and preclinical studies across a broad range of health outcomes in offspring exposed to prenatal alcohol. Our search encompassed four databases (PubMed, CINAHL, Embase and Web of Science) and titles/abstracts from retrieved studies were screened against strict inclusion/exclusion criteria. This review specifically evaluated studies reporting on reproductive outcomes in both males and females. A total of 23 studies were included, 5 clinical and 18 preclinical. Although there was a wide range in the quality of reporting across both clinical and preclinical studies, and variable results, trends emerged amongst the reproductive measures that were investigated. In females, most studies focussed on age at first menarche/puberty onset, with evidence for a significant delay in alcohol-exposed offspring. In males, offspring exposed to prenatal alcohol had altered testosterone levels, reduced testes and accessory gland weights and reduced sperm concentration and semen volume. However, further studies are required due to the paucity of clinical studies, the narrow scope of female reproductive outcomes examined and inconsistencies in outcomes across preclinical studies. We recommend that adolescents and individuals of reproductive age diagnosed with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder be assessed for reproductive dysfunction to allow appropriate management of their reproductive health and fertility.

Open access

Claire Stenhouse, Charis O Hogg and Cheryl Joy Ashworth

Integrins regulate adhesion at the feto-maternal interface by interacting with secreted phosphoprotein 1 (SPP1) and fibronectin (FN). It is hypothesised that impaired foetal growth of ‘runt’ piglets is linked to altered integrin signalling at the feto-maternal interface.

Placental and endometrial samples associated with the lightest and closest to mean litter weight (CTMLW) (gestational day (GD18, 30, 45, 60 and 90), of both sex (GD30, 45, 60 and 90) (n=5-8 litters/GD), Large White X Landrace conceptuses or foetuses were obtained. The mRNA expression of the integrin subunits (ITG) ITGA2, ITGAV, ITGB1, ITGB3, ITGB5, ITGB6, ITGB8, SPP1 and FN was quantified by qPCR.

Temporal changes in mRNA expression were observed, with different profiles in the two tissues. Endometrial ITGB1 (P≤0.05, GD45) and SPP1 (P≤0.05, all GD combined and GD60) expression was decreased in samples supplying the lightest compared to the CTMLW foetuses. Placentas supplying female foetuses had decreased expression of ITGB6 (GD45, P≤0.05) and FN (GD90, P≤0.05) compared to those supplying male foetuses. Endometrial samples supplying females had increased ITGB3 (P≤0.05, GD60) and FN (P≤0.05, GD30) expression and decreased SPP1 (P≤0.05, GD60) expression compared to male foetuses. Correlations between mean within gilt mRNA expression and percentage prenatal survival, number of live foetuses or conceptuses and percentage male foetuses were observed.

This study has highlighted novel and dynamic associations between foetal size, sex and integrin subunit mRNA expression at the porcine feto-maternal interface. Further studies should be performed to improve the understanding of the mechanisms behind these novel findings.