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Tom Moore, John M Williams, Maria Angeles Becerra-Rodriguez, Matthew Dunne, Robert Kammerer, and Gabriela Dveksler

Pregnancy-specific glycoproteins (PSGs) are members of the immunoglobulin superfamily and are closely related to the predominantly membrane-bound CEACAM proteins. PSGs are produced by placental trophoblasts and secreted into the maternal bloodstream at high levels where they may regulate maternal immune and vascular functions through receptor binding and modulation of cytokine and chemokine expression and activity. PSGs may have autocrine and paracrine functions in the placental bed, and PSGs can activate soluble and extracellular matrix bound TGF-β, with potentially diverse effects on multiple cell types. PSGs are also found at high levels in the maternal circulation, at least in human, where they may have endocrine functions. In a non-reproductive context, PSGs are expressed in the gastrointestinal tract and their deregulation may be associated with colorectal cancer and other diseases. Like many placental hormones, PSGs are encoded by multigene families and they have an unusual phylogenetic distribution, being found predominantly in species with hemochorial placentation, with the notable exception of the horse in which PSG-like proteins are expressed in the endometrial cups of the epitheliochorial placenta. The evolution and expansion of PSG gene families appear to be a highly active process, with significant changes in gene numbers and protein domain structures in different mammalian lineages and reports of extensive copy number variation at the human locus. Against this apparent diversification, the available evidence indicates extensive conservation of PSG functions in multiple species. These observations are consistent with maternal–fetal conflict underpinning the evolution of PSGs.

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Kacie A Norton, Ross Humphreys, Chelsey Weatherill, Kevin Duong, Vivian V Nguyen, Arun Kommadath, Farshad Niri, Paul Stothard, and Heather E McDermid

Defects in spermatogenesis are an important cause of male infertility. Multiple aspects of spermatogenesis are controlled by chromatin remodellers, including regulating transcription. We previously described mutations in chromatin remodelling gene Cecr2 that resulted in the lethal neural tube defect exencephaly in most mutant mice and subfertility in mice that were non-penetrant for exencephaly. Here, we show that the severity of male subfertility is dependent on age. Cecr2GT/Del males contain two mutant alleles, one of which is hypomorphic and therefore produces a small amount of protein. These males sire the fewest pups just after sexual maturity (88% fewer than Cecr2+/+ at P42–60) but improve with age (49% fewer than Cecr2+/+ at P81–100), although never completely recovering to Cecr2+/+ (wild type) levels. When young, they also have defects in testis histology, in vivo fertilization frequency, sperm number and motility, and testis weight that show similar improvement with age. Immunostaining of staged seminiferous tubules showed CECR2 in type A, intermediate and B spermatogonia, and less in preleptotene and leptotene spermatocytes. Histological defects were first apparent in Cecr2GT/Del testes at P24, and RNA-seq analysis revealed 387 differentially expressed genes. This included 66 genes on the X chromosome (almost double the number on any other chromosome), all more highly expressed in Cecr2GT/Del testes. This inappropriate expression of X chromosome genes could be caused by a failure of effective meiotic sex chromosome inactivation. We identify several abnormally expressed genes that may contribute to defects in spermatogenesis at P24. Our results support a role for Cecr2 in juvenile spermatogenesis.

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Momoe Ito, Masato Unou, Toshiya Higuchi, Shuhei So, Masahiko Ito, and Keiichiro Yogo

Solute carrier 22a member 14 (SLC22A14) plays a critical role in male infertility in mice. We previously revealed that one of the causes of infertility is impaired capacitation. However, the molecular mechanism remained unclear. Here, we show that the influx of HCO3 , a trigger of capacitation, is impaired and intracellular pH (pHi) is decreased in the sperm of Slc22a14 knockout (KO) mice. While intracellular cAMP concentration did not increase during capacitation in Slc22a14 KO spermatozoa, HCO3 -dependent soluble adenylate cyclase activity was normal, and the addition of 8-bromo cAMP rescued the decreased protein tyrosine phosphorylation. In addition, the pHi of Slc22a14 KO sperm was lower than that of WT sperm and did not increase after the addition of HCO3 . Although its relationship to the regulation of pHi is unknown, transmembrane protein 225, a possible protein phosphatase inhibitor, was found to be decreased in Slc22a14 KO sperm. The decreased in vitro fertilization rate of Slc22a14 KO sperm was partially rescued by an increase in the pHi and the addition of 8-bromo cAMP. These results suggest that SLC22A14 is involved in capacitation through the regulation of HCO3 transport and pHi.

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Sha-Ting Lei, Ming-Qing Li, Yan-Ling Cao, Shu-Hui Hou, Hai-Yan Peng, Dong Zhao, and Jing Sun

Endometriosis (EMS) is a chronic benign inflammatory disease characterized by the growth of endometrial-like tissue in aberrant locations outside of the uterine cavity. Angiogenesis and abnormal immune responses are the fundamental requirements of endometriotic lesion survival in the peritoneal cavity. Follistatin-like I (FSTL1) is a secreted glycoprotein that exhibits varied expression levels in cardiovascular disease, cancer and arthritis. However, the role of FSTL1 in the development of EMS remains to be fully elucidated. Results of the present study demonstrated that the expression of FSTL1 was significantly increased in ectopic endometrial stromal cells (ESCs) and peritoneal fluid from patients with EMS, compared to the control group. Both conditions of hypoxia and estrogen treatment induced human ESCs to produce increased levels of FSTL1 and disco-interacting protein 2 homolog A (DIP2A). Furthermore, the expression levels of DIP2A, IL8 and IL1β were increased in FSTL1 overexpressed HESCs. Additionally, FSTL1 treatment increased the proliferation of HUVECs in a dose-dependent manner in vitro and markedly increased the tube formation of HUVECs. Moreover, treatment with FSTL1 facilitated M1 polarization of macrophages, increased the secretion of proinflammatory factors and inhibited the expression of scavenger receptor CD36. Results of the present study suggested that the elevated expression of FSTL1 may play a key role in accelerating the development of EMS via enhancing the secretion of proinflammatory factors and promoting angiogenesis.

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Hui-Hui Shen, Cheng-Jie Wang, Xin-Yan Zhang, Yan-Ran Sheng, Shao-Liang Yang, Zi-Meng Zheng, Jia-Lu Shi, Xue-Min Qiu, Feng Xie, and Ming-Qing Li

Heme oxygenase 1 (HO-1, encoded by the HMOX1 gene) is the rate-limiting enzyme that catalyzes heme degradation, and it has been reported to exert antioxidative effects. Recently, decidualization has been reported to confer resistance to environmental stress signals, protecting against oxidative stress. However, the effects and regulatory mechanism of HO-1 in decidual stromal cells (DSCs) during early pregnancy remain unknown. Here, we verified that the levels of HO-1 and heme in DSCs are increased compared with those in endometrial stromal cells. Additionally, the upregulation of HIF1A expression led to increased HMOX1 expression in DSCs possibly via nuclear factor erythroid 2-related factor (encoded by the NFE2L2 gene). However, addition of the competitive HO-1 inhibitor zinc protoporphyrin IX resulted in an increase in HIF1A expression. Hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) induced the production of reactive oxygen species (ROS), decreased the cell viability of DSCs in vitro, and upregulated the level of heme. As an HO-1 inducer, cobalt protoporphyrin IX decreased ROS production and significantly reversed the inhibitory effect of H2O2 on cell viability. More importantly, patients with unexplained spontaneous abortion had low levels of HO-1 that were insufficient to protect against oxidative stress. This study suggests that the upregulation of HO-1 expression via HIF1A protects DSCs against excessive heme-mediated oxidative stress. Furthermore, the excessive oxidative stress injury and impaired viability of DSCs associated with decreased HO-1 expression should be associated with the occurrence and/or development of spontaneous abortion.

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Zoe C Johnston, Franz S Gruber, Sean G Brown, Neil R Norcross, Jason Swedlow, Ian H Gilbert, and Christopher L R Barratt

Despite recent advances in male reproductive health research, there remain many elements of male infertility where our understanding is incomplete. Consequently, diagnostic tools and treatments for men with sperm dysfunction, other than medically assisted reproduction, are limited. On the other hand, the gaps in our knowledge of the mechanisms which underpin sperm function have hampered the development of male non-hormonal contraceptives. The study of mature spermatozoa is inherently difficult. They are a unique and highly specialised cell type which does not actively transcribe or translate proteins and cannot be cultured for long periods of time or matured in vitro. One large-scale approach to both increasing the understanding of sperm function and the discovery and development of compounds that can modulate sperm function is to directly observe responses to compounds with phenotypic screening techniques. These target agnostic approaches can be developed into high-throughput screening platforms with the potential to drastically increase advances in the field. Here, we discuss the rationale and development of high-throughput phenotypic screening platforms for mature human spermatozoa and the multiple potential applications these present, as well as the current limitations and leaps in our understanding and the capabilities needed to overcome them. Further development and use of these technologies could lead to the identification of compounds which positively or negatively affect sperm cell motility or function or novel platforms for toxicology or environmental chemical testing among other applications. Ultimately, each of these potential applications is also likely to increase the understanding within the field of sperm biology.

Free access

Ourlad Alzeus G Tantengco, Talar Kechichian, Kathleen L Vincent, Richard B Pyles, Paul Mark B Medina, and Ramkumar Menon

Ureaplasma parvum is a commensal bacterium in the female reproductive tract but has been associated with pregnancy complications such as preterm prelabor rupture of membranes and preterm birth (PTB). However, the pathologic effects of U. parvum in the cervix, which prevents ascending infections during pregnancy, are still poorly understood. To determine the impact of U. parvum on the cervix, ectocervical (ecto) and endocervical (endo) epithelial and stromal cells were incubated with U. parvum. Macrophages were also tested as a proxy for cervical macrophages to determine the antigenicity of U. parvum. The effects of U. parvum, including influence on cell cycle and cell death, antimicrobial peptide (AMP) production, epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT), and inflammatory cytokine levels, were assessed. U. parvum colonized cervical epithelial and stromal cells 4 h post-infection. Like uninfected control, U. parvum neither inhibited cell cycle progression and nor caused cell death in cervical epithelial and stromal cells. U. parvum increased the production of the AMPs cathelicidin and human β-defensin 3 and exhibited weak signs of EMT evidenced by decreased cytokeratin 18 and increased vimentin expression in cervical epithelial cells. U. parvum induced a proinflammatory environment (cytokines) and increased MMP-9 in cervical epithelial cells but promoted pro- and anti-inflammatory response in cervical stromal cells and macrophages. U. parvum may colonize the cervical epithelial layer, but induction of AMPs and anti-inflammatory response may protect the cervix and may prevent ascending infections that can cause PTB. These findings suggest that U. parvum is a weak inducer of inflammation in the cervix.

Free access

Jovana Joksimovic Jovic, Nikola Jovic, Jasmina Sretenovic, Vladimir Zivkovic, Maja Nikolic, Jovan Rudic, Verica Milošević, Nataša Ristić, Kristina Andric, Tijana Dimkic Tomic, Biljana Milicic, and Vladimir Jakovljevic

Numerous evidence implies complex interrelations between polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and hypertension (HT) in reproductive-age women. In this study, we aimed to investigate the potential strain differences in ovarian morphology, hemodynamic, and biochemical characteristics in an androgen-induced PCOS rat model. A total of 24 rats of 3 weeks old (12 Wistar Kyoto – WK and 12 spontaneously hypertensive rats – SHR) were divided into four groups: WK, WK PCOS, SHR, and SHR PCOS. PCOS was induced by daily s.c. injections of testosterone enanthate (1 mg/100 g body weight) administered for 5 weeks. PCOS induction led to estrus cyclicity cessation, cystic ovarian appearance, and sex hormones disturbances in both strains. The morphometric parameters in ovaries were altered in a manner of PCOS-related changes in both strains (higher number in preantral, atretic, and cystic follicles). Ultrasonographically, a significant decrease in ovarian volume (OV) was registered in PCOS groups but also in SHR compared to WK rats. All blood pressure parameters were higher in SHR compared to WK. PCOS modeling increased systolic, mean arterial, and pulse pressure in WK strain, while in SHR, only mean arterial and pulse pressure were higher. Alterations in oxidative stress parameters could provide a molecular basis for PCOS-related changes: in PCOS groups, thiobarbituric acid reactive substance and superoxide anion radical levels were higher in both strains, while superoxide dismutase and glutathione were significantly lowered.

Open access

Yisu Wang, Iestyn Pope, Henry Brennan-Craddock, Emma Poole, Wolfgang Langbein, Paola Borri, and Karl Swann

Exposure of mouse oocytes to saturated fatty acids (FAs) such as palmitic acid (PA) has been shown to increase lipid content and cause an endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress response and changes in the mitochondrial redox state. PA can also disrupt Ca2+ stores in other cell types. The links between these intracellular changes, or whether they are prevented by mono-unsaturated FAs such as oleic acid (OA), is unclear. Here, we have investigated the effects of FAs on mouse oocytes, that are maturated in vitro, using coherent anti-Stokes Raman scattering and two-photon fluorescence microscopy. When oocytes were matured in the presence of PA, there were changes in the aggregation pattern and size of lipid droplets that were mitigated by co-incubation in OA. Maturation in PA alone also caused a distinctive disruption of the ER structure. This effect was prevented by incubation of OA with PA. In contrast, maturation of mouse oocytes in medium containing PA was not associated with any significant change in the redox state of mitochondria or the Ca2+ content of intracellular stores. These data suggest that a primary effect of saturated FAs such as PA on oocytes is to disrupt the structure of the ER and this is not due to an effect on the mitochondria or Ca2+ stores.