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Fei Liu, Zhen-Zhen Chen, Jie Zhao, Yuan-Qiang Zhang, Jing Ma, and Wei Li

Metastasis-associated protein 3 (MTA3) functions as a versatile coregulator in cancers and in physiological contexts. A predominant expression of MTA3 in interstitial Leydig cells (LCs) and its role as a local modulator of testicular steroidogenesis have recently emerged. Incubation with insulin decreased MTA3 expression in a concentration- and exposure time-dependent manner in LCs. This raises the possibility of additional endocrine actions of insulin in the direct control of MTA3 expression, which remains so far unexplored. Herein, we reported that type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM)-mediated inhibition of MTA3 was associated with an increase in testicular oxidative stress. In contrast, a gavage of the strong antioxidant melatonin effectively ameliorated oxidative stress and restored the expression of MTA3, but failed to change serum insulin levels in the diabetic mice with testosterone deficiency (TD). Using multiple biochemical approaches, we demonstrated that oxidative stress suppressed MTA3 expression via repression of nuclear receptor subfamily 4 group A member 1 (NR4A1)-mediated transactivation of MTA3 in mouse LCs. By contrast, ectopic expression of NR4A1 ameliorated oxidative stress-impaired MTA3 expression in LCs. By employing an effective in vivo gene transfer method with microinjection of lentiviral plasmids, we showed that replenishment of MTA3 expression in vivo partially restored testicular steroidogenesis and improved male fertility in diabetic mice with TD. Thus, we have unveiled a central regulatory hub, involving oxidative stress-impaired NR4A1-driven transactivation of MTA3 in stimulated LCs, as a potential mechanism regulating crosstalk between hyperinsulinemia and male infertility associated with TD.

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Xiao-Wei Wei, Xue-Qing Liu, Yu-Chen Zhang, Chuan-Mei Qin, Yi Lin, and Fu-Ju Tian

Recurrent pregnancy loss (RPL) is a multifactorial condition with no explanation of miscarriage in approximately half of the RPL patients, consequently leaving deep physical and emotional sequels. Transcription factor 3 (TCF3 or E2A), is a unique member of the LEF/TCF family and plays an important role in embryogenesis. However, its function in RPL is poorly understood. Using real-time polymerase chain reaction (qRT-PCR), western blotting, and immunohistochemistry, we demonstrated that TCF3 was downregulated in decidual tissues from RPL patients compared with healthy control (HC). Further, TCF3 knockdown inhibited proliferation, induced G0/G1 phase arrest, and promoted migration in human endometrial stromal cells (HESCs), while overexpression of TCF3 exhibited the opposite effects. RNA-sequencing analysis combined with gene-set enrichment analysis results showed that the mitogen-activated protein kinase pathway is potentially downstream of TCF3. Knockdown of TCF3 confirmed increased p38 phosphorylation, while overexpression of TCF3 inhibited p38 phosphorylation. Furthermore, we found that TCF3 protein level was decreased in HESCs under hypoxic incubation, while hypoxia-inducible factor-1α (HIF1A) knockdown increased the expression of TCF3. TCF3 overexpression recovered the proliferation ability of HESCs inhibited by hypoxia and reversed hypoxia-induced migration. Consistently, we found that RPL patients had a significantly higher level of HIF1A in the decidual tissue than HC. Overall, this study clarifies that increased HIF1A in the decidua contributes to the occurrence of RPL through the TCF3/p38 signaling pathway.

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Xinyi Li, Jiaxin Shi, Weijie Zhao, Xixi Huang, Liyuan Cui, Lu Liu, Xueling Jin, Djin Li, Xuan Zhang, and Meirong Du

Decidual stromal cells (DSCs) modulate the function of trophoblasts through various factors. Wnt signaling pathway is active at the maternal–fetal interface. Here, we isolated endometrial stromal cells (ESCs) from women of reproductive ages and DSCs from normal pregnancy during the first trimester (6–10 weeks). Real-time quantitative PCR and western blotting were used to screen out the most variable WNT ligands between ESCs and DSCs, which turned out to be WNT16. Both culture mediums from DSCs and recombinant protein of human WNT16 enhanced the survival and invasion of HTR8/SVneo trophoblastic cells. Furthermore, the regulation of DSCs on trophoblast was partly blockaded after we knocked down WNT16 in DSCs. Treating HTR8/SVneo trophoblastic cells with small molecular inhibitors and small interfering RNA (siRNA), we found that the activity of AKT/beta-catenin (CTNNB1) correlated with the effect of WNT16. The crosstalk of WNT16/AKT/beta-catenin between DSCs and trophoblasts was determined to be downregulated in unexplained recurrent spontaneous abortion. This study suggests that WNT16 from DSCs promotes HTR8/SVneo trophoblastic cells invasion and survival via AKT/beta-catenin pathway at the maternal–fetal interface in human early pregnancy. The disturbance of this crosstalk between DSCs and trophoblasts might cause pregnancy failure.

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Changle Zhao, Zeming Zhang, Ximei Qu, Xiaoming Bai, Xingyong Liu, Wenjing Tao, Linyan Zhou, Deshou Wang, and Jing Wei

Desert hedgehog (DHH) signaling has been reported to be involved in spermatogenesis and the self-renewal of spermatogonial stem cells (SSCs). However, the role of DHH in proliferation of spermatogonia including SSCs remains to be elucidated. Here, we report that Dhh from medaka (Oryizas latipes) (named as OlDhh) could directly mediate the proliferation of spermatogonia via Smoothened (Smo) signaling. Oldhh is 1362 bp in length and encodes 453 amino acid (aa) residues with more than 50% identity with the homologs in other species. It has expression predominantly restricted to testis. The soluble and tag-free 176-aa mature OlDhh (named as mOlDhh) were successfully obtained by fusing with the N-terminal tag of cleavable 6-histidine and small ubiquitin-related modifier and then removing the tag. Notably, mOlDhh significantly promoted the proliferation of SG3 (a spermatogonial stem cell line from medaka testis) in a dose-dependent manner and spermatogonia in testicular organ culture. Furthermore, the proliferation of SG3 in the presence of mOlDhh could be inhibited by Smo antagonist (cyclopamine) resulting in apoptosis. Additionally, mOlDhh significantly upregulated the expression of smo as well as the pluripotent-related genes bcl6b and sall4. These data suggest that Smo is an indispensable downstream component in the Dhh signaling pathway. In conclusion, our findings unambiguously demonstrate that Dhh could directly mediate the proliferation of spermatogonia through Smo signaling. This study provides new knowledge about the proliferation regulation of spermatogonia.

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Rafal P Piprek, Izabela Rams-Pociecha, Robert Zdanowski, Malgorzata Kloc, and Jacek Z Kubiak

Cell to cell interactions are crucial for morphogenesis and tissue formation. Desmoplakin (encoded by the Dsp gene) is a component of desmosomes and anchors the transmembrane adhesion proteins to the cytoskeleton. Its role in gonad development remains vague. To study the role of desmoplakin in gonad development, we used a tissue-specific knockout of the Dsp gene in the NR5A1+ somatic cells of the gonads. We show here that desmoplakin is necessary for the survival of germ cells in fetal testes and ovaries. The Dspknockout in NR5A1+ somatic cells in testes decreased the number of germ cells, and thus the size of the testes, but did not affect the Sertoli cells or the structure of testis cords and interstitium. The Dspknockout in NR5A1+ somatic cells in ovaries decreased the number of female germ cells and drastically reduced the formation of ovarian follicles. Dsp knockout in NR5A1+ somatic cells did not affect the sex determination and sexual differentiation of the gonads, as judged from an unchanged expression of genes essential for these processes. We conclude that mediation by desmoplakin cell adhesion between the gonadal cells is necessary for germ cell survival.

Free access

CheMyong J Ko, Yoon Min Cho, Eugene Ham, Joseph A Cacioppo, and Chan Jin Park

Ovulation is the fundamental biological process during which an oocyte is expelled from the ovary, and it is an essential step toward establishing a pregnancy. Understanding regulatory mechanisms governing the ovulation process is essential for diagnosing and treating causes of infertility, identifying contraceptive targets, and developing novel contraception methods. Endothelin-2 (EDN2) is a 21 amino acid-long peptide that is transiently synthesized by granulosa cells of the ovulatory follicle prior to ovulation and plays an essential role in ovulation via promoting contraction in the myofibroblast cells of the theca layer of the follicle. This review describes the organization of the endothelin system, summarizes recent findings on the expression and synthesis of the endothelin system in the ovary, illustrates the roles that EDN2 plays in regulating ovulation, and discusses EDN2 as a potential target of contraception.

Open access

Tabinda Sidrat, Abdul Aziz Khan, Myeong-Don Joo, Lianguang Xu, Marwa El-Sheikh, Jong-Hyuk Ko, and Il-Keun Kong

Cryopreservation is a process in which the intact living cells, tissues, or embryos are preserved at subzero temperatures for preservation. The cryopreservation process highly impacts the survival and quality of the in vitro-produced (IVP) embryos. Some studies have highlighted the use of oviduct extracellular vesicles (EVs) to improve the cryotolerance of IVP embryos but the mechanism has not been well studied. The present study unravels the role of in vitro cultured bovine oviduct epithelial cells-derived EVs in improving the re-expansion and hatching potential of thawed blastocysts (BLs). The comparison of cryotolerance between synthetic oviduct fluid (SOF) and SOF + EVs-supplemented day-7 cryopreserved BLs revealed that the embryo’s ability to re-expand critically depends on the intact paracellular sealing which facilitates increased fluid accumulation during cavity expansion after shrinkage. Our results demonstrated that BLs cultured in the SOF + EVs group had remarkably higher re-expansion (67.5 ± 4.2%) and hatching rate (84.8 ± 1.4%) compared to the SOF group (53.4 ± 3.4% and 63.9 ± 0.9%, respectively). Interestingly, EVs-supplemented BLs exhibited greater influence on the expression of core genes involved in trophectoderm (TE) maintenance, formation of tight junction (TJ) assembly, H2O channel proteins (aquaporins), and Na+/K+ ATPase alpha 1. The EVs improved the fluid flux and allowed the transport of H2O into an actively re-expanded cavity in EVs-cultured cryo-survived BLs relative to control BLs. Our findings explored the function of EVs in restoring the TE integrity, improved the cell junctional contacts and H2O movement which helps the blastocoel re-expansion after thawing the cryopreserved BLs.

Free access

Zhaoran Zhang, Junru Miao, and Yuan Wang

The classic roles of mitochondria in energy production, metabolism, and apoptosis have been well defined. However, a growing body of evidence suggests that mitochondria are also active players in regulating stem cell fate decision and lineage commitment via signaling transduction, protein modification, and epigenetic modulations. This is particularly interesting for spermatogenesis, during which germ cells demonstrate changing metabolic requirements across various stages of development. It is increasingly recognized that proper male fertility depends on exquisitely controlled plasticity of mitochondrial features, activities, and functional states. The unique role of mitochondria in germ cell ncRNA processing further adds another layer of complexity to mitochondrial regulation during spermatogenesis. In this review, we will discuss potential regulatory mechanisms of how mitochondria swiftly reshape their features, activities, and functions to support critical germ cell fate transitions during spermatogenesis. In addition, we will also review recent findings of how mitochondrial regulators coordinate with germline proteins to participate in germ cell-specific activities.

Open access

Giovana D Catandi, Lance LiPuma, Yusra M Obeidat, Lisa J Maclellan, Corey D Broeckling, Tom Chen, Adam J Chicco, and Elaine M Carnevale

Dietary supplementation is the most feasible method to improve oocyte function and developmental potential in vivo. During three experiments, oocytes were collected from maturing, dominant follicles of older mares to determine whether short-term dietary supplements can alter oocyte metabolic function, lipid composition, and developmental potential. Over approximately 8 weeks, control mares were fed hay (CON) or hay and grain products (COB). Treated mares received supplements designed for equine wellness and gastrointestinal health, flaxseed oil, and a proprietary blend of fatty acid and antioxidant support (reproductive support supplement (RSS)) intended to increase antioxidant activity and lipid oxidation. RSS was modified for individual experiments with additional antioxidants or altered concentrations of n-3 to n-6 fatty acids. Oocytes from mares supplemented with RSS when compared to COB had higher basal oxygen consumption, indicative of higher aerobic metabolism, and proportionately more aerobic to anaerobic metabolism. In the second experiment, oocytes collected from the same mares prior to (CON) and after approximately 8 weeks of RSS supplementation had significantly reduced oocyte lipid abundance. In the final experiment, COB was compared to RSS supplementation, including RSS modified to proportionately reduce n-3 fatty acids and increase n-6 fatty acids. The ability of sperm-injected oocytes to develop into blastocysts was higher for RSS, regardless of fatty acid content, than for COB. We demonstrated that short-term diet supplementation can directly affect oocyte function in older mares, resulting in oocytes with increased metabolic activity, reduced lipid content, and increased developmental potential.

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Yelin Jeong, Seulah Lee, and Inchul Choi

Cytoplasmic polyadenylation element-binding protein 2 (CPEB2) is an mRNA-binding protein that regulates the cytoplasmic polyadenylation of mRNA and is required for tight junction (TJ) assembly in the trophectoderm epithelium during porcine preimplantation development. However, the regulatory mechanism underlying TJ assembly by CPEB2 has not been examined. The aim of this study was to elucidate how Cpeb2 regulates the subcellular localisation and stabilisation of Tjp1 mRNA for TJ biogenesis during mouse preimplantation. CPEB2 was detected in nuclei during the early stages of development and was localised at apical cell membranes from the morula stage onwards. In the Cpeb2 knockdown (KD), we observed reduced blastocyst formation with impaired TJs, defective inner cell mass development in the blastocyst outgrowth assay, and loss of pregnancy after embryo transfer. More importantly, Tjp1 mRNA was localised apically in the outer cells of control morulae but not in the Cpeb2 KD embryos, indicating that CPEB2 mediated the translocalisation of Tjp1 mRNA from the nuclei. Finally, in the control embryos, the length of the Tjp1 mRNA poly (A) tail was varied, while only a single peak was detected in the Cpeb2 KD embryos. These findings suggest that the binding of CPEB2 to the cytoplasmic polyadenylation element in the 3'-UTR can confer stability on Tjp1 mRNA and translational regulation. In summary, we demonstrated for the first time that CPEB2 mediates Tjp1 mRNA stabilisation and subcellular localisation for TJ assembly during mouse blastocyst formation.