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Open access

Patricia Grasa, Heidy Kaune, and Suzannah A Williams

Female mice generating oocytes lacking complex N- and O-glycans (double mutants (DM)) produce only one small litter before undergoing premature ovarian failure (POF) by 3 months. Here we investigate the basis of the small litter by evaluating ovulation rate and embryo development in DM (Mgat1 F/F C1galt1 F/F:ZP3Cre) and Control (Mgat1 F/F C1galt1 F/F) females. Surprisingly, DM ovulation rate was normal at 6 weeks, but declined dramatically by 9 weeks. In vitro development of zygotes to blastocysts was equivalent to Controls although all embryos from DM females lacked a normal zona pellucida (ZP) and ∼30% lacked a ZP entirely. In contrast, in vivo preimplantation development resulted in less embryos recovered from DM females compared with Controls at 3.5 days post coitum (dpc) (3.2±1.3 vs 7.0±0.6). Furthermore, only 45% of mated DM females contained embryos at 3.5 dpc. Of the preimplantation embryos collected from DM females, approximately half were morulae unlike Controls where the majority were blastocysts, indicating delayed embryo development in DM females. Post-implantation development in DM females was analysed to determine whether delayed preimplantation development affected subsequent development. In DM females at 5.5 dpc, only ∼40% of embryos found at 3.5 dpc had implanted. However, at 6.5 dpc, implantation sites in DM females corresponded to embryo numbers at 3.5 dpc indicating delayed implantation. At 9.5 dpc, the number of decidua corresponded to embryo numbers 6 days earlier indicating that all implanted embryos progress to midgestation. Therefore, a lack of complex N- and O-glycans in oocytes during development impairs early embryo development and viability in vivo leading to delayed implantation and a small litter.

Open access

Nadège Vernet, Shantha K Mahadevaiah, Peter J I Ellis, Dirk G de Rooij, and Paul S Burgoyne

We recently used three XO male mouse models with varying Y short-arm (Yp) gene complements, analysed at 30 days post partum, to demonstrate a Yp gene requirement for the apoptotic elimination of spermatocytes with a univalent X chromosome at the first meiotic metaphase. The three mouse models were i) XSxr a O in which the Yp-derived Tp(Y)1Ct Sxr-a sex reversal factor provides an almost complete Yp gene complement, ii) XSxr b O,Eif2s3y males in which Tp(Y)1Ct Sxr-b has a deletion completely or partially removing eight Yp genes – the Yp gene Eif2s3y has been added as a transgene to support spermatogonial proliferation, and iii) XOSry,Eif2s3y males in which the Sry transgene directs gonad development along the male pathway. In this study, we have used the same mouse models analysed at 6 weeks of age to investigate potential Yp gene involvement in spermiogenesis. We found that all three mouse models produce haploid and diploid spermatids and that the diploid spermatids showed frequent duplication of the developing acrosomal cap during the early stages. However, only in XSxr a O males did spermiogenesis continue to completion. Most strikingly, in XOSry,Eif2s3y males, spermatid development arrested at round spermatid step 7 so that no sperm head restructuring or tail development was observed. In contrast, in XSxr b O,Eif2s3y males, spermatids with substantial sperm head and tail morphogenesis could be easily found, although this was delayed compared with XSxr a O. We conclude that Sxr a (and therefore Yp) includes genetic information essential for sperm morphogenesis and that this is partially retained in Sxr b .

Open access

J M Young, S Henderson, C Souza, H Ludlow, N Groome, and A S McNeilly

Little is known about the role of activin B during folliculogenesis. This study investigated the expression levels of activin/inhibin subunits (βA, βB, and α), steroid enzyme, and gonadotrophin receptors in theca (TC) and granulosa cells (GC) by QPCR and activin A and B and inhibin A protein levels in follicular fluid (FF) of developing sheep follicles during estrus and anestrus. The effect of activin B on androgen production from primary TC cultures in vitro was also assessed. During folliculogenesis, in anestrus and estrus, FF activin B concentrations and thecal and GC activin βB mRNA levels decreased as follicle diameter increased from 1–3 to >6 mm regardless of estrogenic status. Estrogenic preovulatory follicles had reduced concentrations of FF activins B and A, and TC and GCs expressed higher levels of activin βA mRNA at 3–4 mm, and TCs more inhibin α mRNA at >4 mm stages of development compared with nonestrogenic follicles. Activin B decreased androstenedione production from primary TCs in vitro, an effect blocked by inhibin A. Thus, sheep follicles 1–3 mm in diameter contained high FF levels of activin B, which decreased as the follicle size increased, and, like activin A, suppressed thecal androgen production in vitro, an effect blocked by inhibin. Furthermore, the theca of large estrogenic follicles expressed high levels of inhibin α and activin βA mRNA suggesting local thecal derived inhibin A production. This would inhibit the negative effects of thecal activins B and A ensuring maximum androgen production for enhanced estradiol production by the preovulatory follicle(s).

Open access

Y Qiu, M Seager, A Osman, J Castle-Miller, H Bevan, D J Tortonese, D Murphy, S J Harper, H M Fraser, L F Donaldson, and D O Bates

Angiogenesis and vascular regression are critical for the female ovulatory cycle. They enable progression and regression of follicular development, and corpora lutea formation and regression. Angiogenesis in the ovary occurs under the control of the vascular endothelial growth factor-A (VEGFA) family of proteins, which are generated as both pro-(VEGF165) and anti(VEGF165b)-angiogenic isoforms by alternative splicing. To determine the role of the VEGF165b isoforms in the ovulatory cycle, we measured VEGF165b expression in marmoset ovaries by immunohistochemistry and ELISA, and used transgenic mice over-expressing VEGF165b in the ovary. VEGF165b was expressed in the marmoset ovaries in granulosa cells and theca, and the balance of VEGF165b:VEGF165 was regulated during luteogenesis. Mice over-expressing VEGF165b in the ovary were less fertile than wild-type littermates, had reduced secondary and tertiary follicles after mating, increased atretic follicles, fewer corpora lutea and generated fewer embryos in the oviduct after mating, and these were more likely not to retain the corona radiata. These results indicate that the balance of VEGFA isoforms controls follicle progression and luteogenesis, and that control of isoform expression may regulate fertility in mammals, including in primates.

Open access

Victoria Tyndall, Marie Broyde, Richard Sharpe, Michelle Welsh, Amanda J Drake, and Alan S McNeilly

We investigated the effects of different windows of testosterone propionate (TP) treatment during foetal and neonatal life in female rats to determine whether and when excess androgen exposure would cause disruption of adult reproductive function. Animals were killed prepubertally at d25 and as adults at d90. Plasma samples were taken for hormone analysis and ovaries serial sectioned for morphometric analyses. In prepubertal animals, only foetal+postnatal and late postnatal TP resulted in increased body weights, and an increase in transitory, but reduced antral follicle numbers without affecting total follicle populations. Treatment with TP during both foetal+postnatal life resulted in the development of streak ovaries with activated follicles containing oocytes that only progressed to a small antral (smA) stage and inactive uteri. TP exposure during foetal or late postnatal life had no effect upon adult reproductive function or the total follicle population, although there was a reduction in the primordial follicle pool. In contrast, TP treatment during full postnatal life (d1–25) resulted in anovulation in adults (d90). These animals were heavier, had a greater ovarian stromal compartment, no differences in follicle thecal cell area, but reduced numbers of anti-Mullerian hormone-positive smA follicles when compared with controls. Significantly reduced uterine weights lead reduced follicle oestradiol production. These results support the concept that androgen programming of adult female reproductive function occurs only during specific time windows in foetal and neonatal life with implications for the development of polycystic ovary syndrome in women.

Open access

Juho-Antti Mäkelä, Vuokko Saario, Sonia Bourguiba-Hachemi, Mirja Nurmio, Kirsi Jahnukainen, Martti Parvinen, and Jorma Toppari

Hedgehog (Hh) signalling has a crucial role in testis development. Sertoli cell-derived desert hedgehog (DHH) guides the formation of testis cords and differentiation of foetal-type Leydig cells. Dhh mutant mice are infertile due to a block in germ cell differentiation, hypogonadism and hypoandrogenism. Hh signalling pathway components are also expressed in postnatal testis. In the rat testis the transcription factor of the Hh pathway, glioma-associated oncogene homologue (GLI1), is expressed by a wide variety of germ cells. This suggests that Hh signalling is involved in spermatogenesis at many different levels. Our data show that canonical Hh signalling is turned off in early condensing spermatids that strongly express the negative regulator of the pathway, suppressor of fused (SUFU). Most of the Hh pathway specific mRNAs display the highest values in stages II–VI of the rat seminiferous epithelial cycle. The key endocrine regulator of germ cell differentiation, FSH, down-regulates Dhh mRNA levels in vitro. Hh signalling inhibition in vitro leads to massive apoptosis of germ cells. In prepubertal rat testis imatinib mesylate-induced inhibition of tyrosine kinases impinges on Dhh transcript levels and Hh signalling. Our data indicate that Hh signalling is part of the paracrine signalling network in the rat testis. It promotes the survival of germ cells and is suppressed by FSH.

Open access

Purevjargal Naidansuren, Cha-Won Park, Sang-Hwan Kim, Tseeleema Nanjidsuren, Jong-Ju Park, Seong-Jo Yun, Bo-Woong Sim, Seongsoo Hwang, Myung-Hwa Kang, Buom-Yong Ryu, Sue-Yun Hwang, Jong-Taek Yoon, Keitaro Yamanouchi, and Kwan-Sik Min

The enzyme 20α-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase (20α-HSD) catalyzes the conversion of progesterone to its inactive form, 20α-hydroxyprogesterone. This enzyme plays a critical role in the regulation of luteal function in female mammals. In this study, we conducted the characterization and functional analyses of bovine 20α-HSD from placental and ovarian tissues. The nucleotide sequence of bovine 20α-HSD showed significant homology to that of goats (96%), humans (84%), rabbits (83%), and mice (81%). The mRNA levels increased gradually throughout the estrous cycle, the highest being in the corpus luteum (CL) 1 stage. Northern blot analysis revealed a 1.2 kb mRNA in the bovine placental and ovarian tissues. An antibody specific to bovine 20α-HSD was generated in a rabbit immunized with the purified, recombinant protein. Recombinant 20α-HSD protein produced in mammalian cells had a molecular weight of ∼37 kDa. Bacterially expressed bovine 20α-HSD protein showed enzymatic activity. The expression pattern of the 20α-HSD protein in the pre-parturition placenta and the CL1 stage of the estrous cycle was similar to the level of 20α-HSD mRNA expression. Immunohistochemical analysis also revealed that bovine 20α-HSD protein was intensively localized in the large luteal cells during the late estrous cycle.

Open access

Linsay J Macdonald, Sheila C Boddy, Fiona C Denison, Kurt J Sales, and Henry N Jabbour

Lipoxin A4 is a lipid mediator that elicits anti-inflammatory and pro-resolution actions via its receptor, formyl peptide receptor 2 (FPR2/ALX). In this study, we aimed to investigate the expression and potential role of lipoxin A4 and FPR2/ALX in the regulation of inflammation associated with cyclical remodeling of the human endometrium across the menstrual cycle and during early pregnancy. Using quantitative RT-PCR analysis, we found that FPR2/ALX expression is upregulated during the menstrual phase of the cycle and in decidua tissue from the first trimester of pregnancy. We localized the site of expression of FPR2/ALX in menstrual phase endometrium and first-trimester decidua tissue to glandular epithelial cells and cells within the stromal compartment, including cells lining the blood vessels and immune cells. Measurement of serum lipoxin A4 by ELISA revealed no difference in its levels across the menstrual cycle but an elevation in early pregnancy (P<0.001). We found that lipoxin A4 was regulated by human chorionic gonadotrophin (hCG) during early pregnancy, because treatment of human decidua tissue with hCG increased lipoxin A4 release (P<0.01). Finally, we have shown that lipoxin A4 can suppress phorbol myristate acetate-induced expression of the inflammatory cytokines interleukin 6 and 8 in human endometrium and decidua tissue. These results demonstrate for the first time that lipoxin A4 and its receptor FPR2/ALX can regulate inflammatory events in the human endometrium and decidua of early pregnancy.

Open access

Emily C Turner, Jeremy Hughes, Helen Wilson, Michael Clay, Katie J Mylonas, Tiina Kipari, W Colin Duncan, and Hamish M Fraser

Macrophages are the most abundant immune cell within the ovary. Their dynamic distribution throughout the ovarian cycle and heterogenic array of functions suggest the involvement in various ovarian processes, but their functional role has yet to be fully established. The aim was to induce conditional macrophage ablation to elucidate the putative role of macrophages in maintaining the integrity of ovarian vasculature. Using the CD11b-diphtheria toxin receptor (DTR) mouse, in which expression of human DTR is under the control of the macrophage-specific promoter sequence CD11b, ovarian macrophages were specifically ablated in adult females by injections of diphtheria toxin (DT). CD11b-DTR mice were given DT treatment or vehicle and ovaries collected at 2, 8, 16, 24 and 48 h. Histochemical stains were employed to characterise morphological changes, immunohistochemistry for F4/80 to identify macrophages and the endothelial cell marker CD31 used to quantify vascular changes. In normal ovaries, macrophages were detected in corpora lutea and in the theca layer of healthy and atretic follicles. As macrophage ablation progressed, increasing amounts of ovarian haemorrhage were observed affecting both luteal and thecal tissue associated with significant endothelial cell depletion, increased erythrocyte accumulation and increased follicular atresia by 16 h. These events were followed by necrosis and profound structural damage. Changes were limited to the ovary, as DT treatment does not disrupt the vasculature of other tissues likely reflecting the unique cyclical nature of the ovarian vasculature and heterogeneity between macrophages within different tissues. These results show that macrophages play a critical role in maintaining ovarian vascular integrity.

Open access

D Claire Wathes, Zhangrui Cheng, Mark A Fenwick, Richard Fitzpatrick, and Joe Patton

Postpartum dairy cows enter a period of negative energy balance (NEB) associated with low circulating IGF1, during which the uterus must undergo extensive repair following calving. This study investigated the effects of NEB on expression of IGF family members and related genes in the involuting uterus. Cows were allocated to two treatments using differential feeding and milking regimes to produce mild NEB or severe NEB (SNEB). Uterine endometrial samples collected 2 weeks post partum were analysed by quantitative PCR. The expression of IGF-binding protein 4 (IGFBP4) mRNA increased in the endometrium of SNEB cows, with trends towards increased IGFBP1 and reduced IGFBP6 expression. There were no significant differences between treatments in mRNA expression of IGF1, IGF2 or of any hormone receptor studied, but significant correlations across all cows in the expression levels of groups of receptors suggested common regulatory mechanisms: type 1 IGF receptor (IGF1R), IGF2R and insulin receptor (INSR); GHR with ESR1; and ESR2 with NR3C1. The expression of IGF1R and INSR also positively correlated with the circulating urea concentration. Matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) are important in tissue remodelling and can affect IGF signalling via interaction with IGFBPs. The expression levels of MMP1, MMP3, MMP9 and MMP13 mRNAs all showed major upregulation in the endometrium of cows in SNEB and all except MMP9 were highly correlated with expression of IGFBP4. Alpha(2)-HS-glycoprotein (AHSG) and PDK4, two genes implicated in insulin resistance, were also highly expressed in SNEB. These results suggest that cows in SNEB experience alterations to the IGF and insulin signalling pathways in the postpartum endometrium. This may affect the rate of tissue repair with a possible negative impact on subsequent fertility.