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Open access

Nick Warr, Pam Siggers, Joel May, Nicolas Chalon, Madeleine Pope, Sara Wells, Marie-Christine Chaboissier, and Andy Greenfield

Sex determination in mammals is controlled by the dominance of either pro-testis (SRY-SOX9-FGF9) or pro-ovary (RSPO1-WNT4-FOXL2) genetic pathways during early gonad development in XY and XX embryos, respectively. We have previously shown that early, robust expression of mouse Sry is dependent on the nuclear protein GADD45g. In the absence of GADD45g, XY gonadal sex reversal occurs, associated with a major reduction of Sry levels at 11.5 dpc. Here, we probe the relationship between Gadd45g and Sry further, using gain- and loss-of-function genetics. First, we show that transgenic Gadd45g overexpression can elevate Sry expression levels at 11.5 dpc in the B6.YPOS model of sex reversal, resulting in phenotypic rescue. We then show that the zygosity of pro-ovarian Rspo1 is critical for the degree of gonadal sex reversal observed in both B6.YPOS and Gadd45g-deficient XY gonads, in contrast to that of Foxl2. Phenotypic rescue of sex reversal is observed in XY gonads lacking both Gadd45g and Rspo1, but this is not associated with rescue of Sry expression levels at 11.5 dpc. Instead, Sox9 levels are rescued by around 12.5 dpc. We conclude that Gadd45g is absolutely required for timely expression of Sry in XY gonads, independently of RSPO1-mediated WNT signalling, and discuss these data in light of our understanding of antagonistic interactions between the pro-testis and pro-ovary pathways.

Restricted access

Yali Hao, Yan Li, Jianlei Wu, Na Hao, Yuzhen Qin, Haibo zhang, Wei Zhao, and Shan Kang

Abnormal gene expression caused by epigenetic changes, including DNA methylation, is associated with the development and progression of endometriosis. Grainyhead-like 2 gene (GRHL2), a suppressor of epithelial–mesenchymal transition, has been suggested to be associated with the occurrence, progression and poor survival of a variety of cancers. Although endometriosis is a benign disease, it has the biological behaviour of migration and invasion as malignant tumor. This study aims to determine whether the abnormal expression of the GRHL2 caused by aberrant methylation of its promoter is associated with the pathogenesis of ovarian endometriosis. Our results demonstrated that GRHL2 promoter region was significantly hypermethylated in the ectopic endometrium of patients with ovarian endometriosis compared with the normal endometrium of control patients. In contrast, the levels of GRHL2 mRNA and protein were significantly lower in the ectopic endometrium than in the control endometrium. Correlation analysis showed the methylation levels of GRHL2 were significantly negatively correlated with the mRNA expression of GRHL2. Moreover, the in vitro results suggested that the knockdown of GRHL2 could significantly increase the invasion and migration ability of EECs and may promote ZEB1 and vimentin expression while decreasing the expression of E-cadherin in EECs. Taken together, these results suggest that the low expression of GRHL2 caused by hypermethylation of the GRHL2 promoter is associated with ovarian endometriosis. The knockdown of GRHL2 may be involved in the occurrence of endometriosis by increasing EEC migration and invasion. This study provides more evidence for the hypothesis that endometriosis may be an epigenetic regulatory disorder.

Open access

Ludmila Volozonoka, Anna Miskova, Liene Kornejeva, Inga Kempa, Veronika Bargatina, and Linda Gailite

Genetic testing is becoming increasingly required at almost every stage of failed female reproduction/infertility. Nonetheless, clinical evidence for the majority of identified gene–disease relationships is ill-defined, thus leading to difficult gene variant interpretation and poor translation of existing knowledge into clinics. We aimed to identify the genes that have ever been implicated in monogenic female reproductive failure in humans and to classify the identified gene–disease relationship pairs using a standardized clinical validity assessment. A PubMed search following PRISMA guidelines was conducted on 20 September 2021 aiming to identify studies pertaining to genetic causes of phenotypes of female reproductive failure. The clinical validity of identified gene–disease pairs was assessed using standardized criteria, counting whether sufficient genetic and experimental evidence has been accumulated to consider a single gene ‘characterized’ for a single Mendelian disease. In total, 1256 articles were selected for the data extraction; 183 unique gene–disease pairs were classified spanning the following phenotypes: hypogonadotropic hypogonadism, ovarian dysgenesis, premature ovarian failure/insufficiency, ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome, empty follicle syndrome, oocyte maturation defect, fertilization failure, early embryonic arrest, recurrent hydatidiform mole, adrenal disfunction and Mullerian aplasia. Twenty-four gene–disease pairs showed definitive evidence, 36 – strong, 19 – moderate, 81 – limited and 23 – showed no evidence. Here, we provide comprehensive, systematic and timely information on the genetic causes of female infertility. Our classification of genetic causes of female reproductive failure will facilitate the composition of up-to-date guidelines on genetic testing in female reproduction, the development of diagnostic gene panels and the advancement of reproductive decision-making.

Free access

Xue Zhang, Bo-Yin Tan, Shuang Zhang, Qian Feng, Ying Bai, Shi-Quan Xiao, Xue-Mei Chen, Jun-Lin He, Xue-Qing Liu, Ying-Xiong Wang, Yu-Bin Ding, and Fang-Fang Li

Decidualization of uterine stromal cells plays an important role in the establishment of normal pregnancy. Previous studies have demonstrated that Acyl-CoA binding protein (Acbp) is critical to cellular proliferation, differentiation, mitochondrial functions, and autophagy. The characterization and physiological function of Acbp during decidualization remain largely unknown. In the present study, we conducted the expression profile of Acbp in the endometrium of early pregnant mice. With the occurrence of decidualization, the expression of Acbp gradually increased. Similarly, Acbp expression was also strongly expressed in decidualized cells following artificial decidualization, both in vivo and in vitro. We applied the mice pseudopregnancy model to reveal that the expression of Acbp in the endometrium of early pregnant mice was not induced by embryonic signaling. Moreover, P4 significantly upregulated the expression of Acbp, whereas E2 appeared to have no regulating effect on Acbp expression in uterine stromal cells. Concurrently, we found that interfering with Acbp attenuated decidualization, and that might due to mitochondrial dysfunctions and the inhibition of fatty acid oxidation. The level of autophagy was increased after knocking down Acbp. During induced decidualization, the expression of ACBP was decreased with the treatment of rapamycin (an autophagy inducer), while increased with the addition of Chloroquine (an autophagy inhibitor). Our work suggests that Acbp plays an essential role in the proliferation and differentiation of stromal cells during decidualization through regulating mitochondrial functions, fatty acid oxidation, and autophagy.

Free access

Li Nie, Li-xue Zhang, Yi-cheng Wang, Yun Long, Yong-dan Ma, Lin-chuan Liao, Xin-hua Dai, Zhi-hui Cui, Huan Liu, Zhao-qi Wang, Zi-yang Ma, Dong-zhi Yuan, and Li-min Yue

Uterine receptivity to the embryo is crucial for successful implantation. The establishment of uterine receptivity requires a large amount of energy, and abnormal energy regulation causes implantation failure. Glucose metabolism in the endometrium is tissue specific. Glucose is largely stored in the form of glycogen, which is the main energy source for the endometrium. AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK), an important energy-sensing molecule, is a key player in the regulation of glucose metabolism and its regulation is also tissue specific. However, the mechanism of energy regulation in the endometrium for the establishment of uterine receptivity remains to be elucidated. In this study, we aimed to investigate the energy regulation mechanism of mouse uterine receptivity and its significance in embryo implantation. The results showed that the AMPK, p-AMPK, glycogen synthase 1, and glycogen phosphorylase M levels and the glycogen content in mouse endometrial epithelium varied in a periodic manner under regulation by the ovarian hormone. Specifically, progesterone significantly activated AMPK, promoted glycogenolysis, and upregulated glycogen phosphorylase M expression. AMPK regulated glycogen phosphorylase M expression and promoted glycogenolysis. AMPK was also found to be activated by changes in the energy or glycogen of the endometrial epithelial cells. The inhibition of AMPK activity or glycogenolysis altered the uterine receptivity markers during the window of implantation and ultimately interfered with implantation. In summary, consistency and synchronization of AMPK and glycogen metabolism constitute the core regulatory mechanism in mouse endometrial epithelial cells involved in the establishment of uterine receptivity.

Free access

Diana Medina-Bastidas, Ignacio Camacho-Arroyo, and Elizabeth García-Gómez

Microbiome or microbiota is essential to regulate many mammalian physiological processes, including reproduction. Like other organs or tissues, the upper female reproductive tract used to be considered as devoid of microorganisms; however, a non-infection-related bacterial community was discovered in the uterus from humans and other mammals, and its composition is related to reproductive success. The dysbiosis of endometrial microbiota is associated with benign and malign uterine diseases. Hence, this review addressed the current knowledge about uterine microbiota alterations and their association with common endometrial diseases, including endometrial polyposis, endometriosis, uterine myomatosis, endometrial hyperplasia, and endometrial cancer. There is a specific bacterial community in the endometrium in the most-analyzed uterine diseases. However, the constant finding consists in a reduced abundance of Firmicutes and Lactobacillus, while there is an increased abundance of Proteobacteria (such as Escherichia coli and Enterococcus), Bacteroidetes (Prevotella, for example), and Actinobacteria (as Gardnerella), in contrast to healthy endometrium. Besides, we discussed the future usefulness of the endometrial microbiota components as biomarkers to diagnose uterine diseases and their probable clinical outcomes. In addition, we analyzed their potential use as probiotics since they could provide an alternative or complement to existing therapies.

Free access

Anabella R Nicolli, Carlos A I Alonso, Catalina Otamendi, Micaela Cerletti, Ansgar Poetsch, Vikram Sharma, Lucia Zalazar, Silvina Perez-Martinez, and Andreina Cesari

Sperm capacitation in mammals is a fundamental requirement to acquire their fertilizing capacity. Little is known about the action mechanism of the molecules that prevent capacitation from occurring prematurely. These molecules are known as decapacitation factors (DFs) and they must be removed from the sperm surface for capacitation to occur successfully. Serine protease inhibitor Kazal type 3 (SPINK3) has been proposed as one of these DFs. Here, we evaluate how this protein binds to mouse sperm and its removal kinetics. We describe that SPINK3 is capable of binding to the membrane of mature epididymal sperm through protein–lipid interactions, specifically to lipid rafts subcellular fraction. Moreover, cholera toxin subunit b (CTB) avoids SPINK3 binding. We observe that SPINK3 is removed from the sperm under in vitro capacitating conditions and by the uterine fluid from estrus females. Our ex vivo studies show the removal kinetics of this protein within the female tract, losing SPINK3 formerly from the apical region of the sperm in the uterus and later from the flagellar region within the oviduct. The presence of acrosome-reacted sperm in the female duct concurs with the absence of SPINK3 over its surface.

Free access

Jihyun Park, Mi-Hee Kim, Dong-Hee Han, Jong-Yun Noh, Eun-Sang Ji, Sung-Ho Lee, Chang-Ju Kim, and Sehyung Cho

The physiological processes of organisms in this rotating planet can adjust according to the time of day via built-in circadian clocks. However, more people are having different shift works, which can increase the risk of pathological conditions including altered reproductive function. Thus, circadian rhythm disturbance has become prevalent in the modern society. Specifically, epidemiological evidence has shown that shift-working women are at high risk of spontaneous abortions, irregular menstrual cycles, and low-birth-weight babies. The current study aimed to investigate the effects of circadian rhythm disturbances on the reproductive function of mice caused by dietary time shift, which is common among night-shift workers. According to the schedule of restricted feeding, the mice were classified into the free feeding, daytime feeding, and night feeding groups. The fertility indices of each group were then evaluated. Activity monitoring was performed to determine whether pregnancy delay might be attributed to mealtime shift. Moreover, the estrous cycle of female mice and the reproductive phenotype of male mice were investigated. Results showed that a 12-h mealtime shift significantly delayed successful conception, which could be attributed to a disrupted estrous cycle, in adult female mice.

Free access

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.

Free access

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.