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Open access

Xue-Qing Wu, Xiao-Feng Li, Bilu Ye, Neha Popat, Stuart R Milligan, Stafford L Lightman, and Kevin T O'Byrne

Neonatal exposure to an immunological challenge (lipopolysaccharide, LPS) increases the activity of hypothalamo-pituitary–adrenal axis and sensitises the GNRH pulse generator to the inhibitory influence of stress in adult rats. We investigated the effects of neonatal exposure to LPS on various reproductive parameters during puberty and into adulthood in female rats. LPS (50 μg/kg, i.p.) or saline was administered on postnatal days 3 and 5. Vaginal opening was recorded, and oestrous cyclicity was monitored immediately post puberty and again at 8–9 weeks of age. At 10 weeks of age, the ovaries were removed and the number of follicles was counted, together with the thickness of the theca interna of the largest antral follicles. Ovarian sympathetic nerve activity was assessed immunohistochemically by measurement of the levels of ovarian low-affinity receptor of nerve growth factor (p75NGFR). In rats exposed to LPS in early life, there was a significant delay in puberty and disruption of oestrous cyclicity immediately post puberty, which persisted into adulthood. The follicle reserve was decreased, the thickness of the theca interna increased and the expression profile of ovarian p75NGFR increased in the neonatal LPS-treated animals. These data suggest that exposure to LPS during early neonatal life can have long-term dysfunctional effects on the female reproductive system, which might involve, at least in part, increased ovarian sympathetic nerve activity.

Open access

M A Hyatt, D S Gardner, S Sebert, V Wilson, N Davidson, Y Nigmatullina, L L Y Chan, H Budge, and M E Symonds

Maternal nutrition during the period of early organ development can modulate the offspring's ability to metabolise excess fat as young adults when exposed to an obesogenic environment. This study examined the hypothesis that exposing offspring to nutrient restriction coincident with early hepatogenesis would result in endocrine and metabolic adaptations that subsequently lead to increased ectopic lipid accumulation within the liver. Pregnant sheep were fed either 50 or 100% of total metabolisable energy requirements from 30 to 80 days gestation and 100% thereafter. At weaning, offspring were made obese, and at ∼1 year of age livers were sampled. Lipid infiltration and molecular indices of gluconeogenesis, lipid metabolism and mitochondrial function were measured. Although hepatic triglyceride accumulation was not affected by obesity per se, it was nearly doubled in obese offspring born to nutrient-restricted mothers. This adaptation was accompanied by elevated gene expression for peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor γ (PPARG) and its co-activator PGC1α, which may be indicative of changes in the rate of hepatic fatty acid oxidation. In contrast, maternal diet had no influence on the stimulatory effect of obesity on gene expression for a range of proteins involved in glucose metabolism and energy balance including glucokinase, glucocorticoid receptors and uncoupling protein 2. Similarly, although gene expressions for the insulin and IGF1 receptors were suppressed by obesity they were not influenced by the prenatal nutritional environment. In conclusion, excess hepatic lipid accumulation with juvenile obesity is promoted by suboptimal nutrition coincident with early development of the fetal liver.

Open access

Iain J McEwan, Dagmara McGuinness, Colin W Hay, Robert P Millar, Philippa T K Saunders, and Hamish M Fraser

The androgen receptor (AR) is a member of the nuclear receptor superfamily, and is important for both male and female reproductive health. The receptor is a target for a number of post-translational modifications including phosphorylation, which has been intensively studied in vitro. However, little is known about the phosphorylation status of the receptor in target tissues in vivo. The common marmoset is a useful model for studying human reproductive functions, and comparison of the AR primary sequence from this primate shows high conservation of serines known to be phosphorylated in the human receptor and corresponding flanking amino acids. We have used a panel of phosphospecific antibodies to study AR phosphorylation in the marmoset ovary throughout the follicular phase and after treatment with GNRH antagonist or testosterone propionate. In normal follicular phase ovaries, total AR (both phosphorylated and non-phosphorylated forms) immunopositive staining was observed in several cell types including granulosa cells of developing follicles, theca cells and endothelial cells lining blood vessels. Receptor phosphorylation at serines 81, 308, and 650 was detected primarily in the granulosa cells of developing follicles, surface epithelium, and vessel endothelial cells. Testosterone treatment lead to a modest increase in AR staining in all stages of follicle studied, while GNRH antagonist had no effect. Neither treatment significantly altered the pattern of phosphorylation compared to the control group. These results demonstrate that phosphorylation of the AR occurs, at a subset of serine residues, in a reproductive target tissue in vivo, which appears refractory to hormonal manipulations.

Open access

P J O'Shaughnessy, A Monteiro, G Verhoeven, K De Gendt, and M H Abel

FSH and androgen act to stimulate and maintain spermatogenesis. FSH acts directly on the Sertoli cells to stimulate germ cell number and acts indirectly to increase androgen production by the Leydig cells. In order to differentiate between the direct effects of FSH on spermatogenesis and those mediated indirectly through androgen action, we have crossed hypogonadal (hpg) mice, which lack gonadotrophins, with mice lacking androgen receptors (AR) either ubiquitously (ARKO) or specifically on the Sertoli cells (SCARKO). These hpg.ARKO and hpg.SCARKO mice were treated with recombinant FSH for 7 days and testicular morphology and cell numbers were assessed. In untreated hpg and hpg.SCARKO mice, germ cell development was limited and did not progress beyond the pachytene stage. In hpg.ARKO mice, testes were smaller with fewer Sertoli cells and germ cells compared to hpg mice. Treatment with FSH had no effect on Sertoli cell number but significantly increased germ cell numbers in all groups. In hpg mice, FSH increased the numbers of spermatogonia and spermatocytes, and induced round spermatid formation. In hpg.SCARKO and hpg.ARKO mice, in contrast, only spermatogonial and spermatocyte numbers were increased with no formation of spermatids. Leydig cell numbers were increased by FSH in hpg and hpg.SCARKO mice but not in hpg.ARKO mice. Results show that in rodents 1) FSH acts to stimulate spermatogenesis through an increase in spermatogonial number and subsequent entry of these cells into meiosis, 2) FSH has no direct effect on the completion of meiosis and 3) FSH effects on Leydig cell number are mediated through interstitial ARs.

Open access

Catherine E Forristal, Kate L Wright, Neil A Hanley, Richard O C Oreffo, and Franchesca D Houghton

Human embryonic stem (hES) cells are routinely cultured under atmospheric, 20% oxygen tensions but are derived from embryos which reside in a 3–5% oxygen (hypoxic) environment. Maintenance of oxygen homeostasis is critical to ensure sufficient levels for oxygen-dependent processes. This study investigates the importance of specific hypoxia inducible factors (HIFs) in regulating the hypoxic responses of hES cells. We report that culture at 20% oxygen decreased hES cell proliferation and resulted in a significantly reduced expression of SOX2, NANOG and POU5F1 (OCT4) mRNA as well as POU5F1 protein compared with hypoxic conditions. HIF1A protein was not expressed at 20% oxygen and displayed only a transient, nuclear localisation at 5% oxygen. HIF2A (EPAS1) and HIF3A displayed a cytoplasmic localisation during initial hypoxic culture but translocated to the nucleus following long-term culture at 5% oxygen and were significantly upregulated compared with cells cultured at 20% oxygen. Silencing of HIF2A resulted in a significant decrease in both hES cell proliferation and POU5F1, SOX2 and NANOG protein expression while the early differentiation marker, SSEA1, was concomitantly increased. HIF3A upregulated HIF2A and prevented HIF1A expression with the knockdown of HIF3A resulting in the reappearance of HIF1A protein. In summary, these data demonstrate that a low oxygen tension is preferential for the maintenance of a highly proliferative, pluripotent population of hES cells. While HIF3A was found to regulate the expression of both HIF1A and HIF2A, it is HIF2A which regulates hES cell pluripotency as well as proliferation under hypoxic conditions.

Open access

A I Qureshi, S S Nussey, G Bano, P Musonda, S A Whitehead, and H D Mason

Histological studies have demonstrated that polycystic ovaries (PCO) contain increased numbers of preantral follicles with a specific increase in primary follicles. Polycystic ovary syndrome is associated with hyperandrogenism and pre- and postnatal androgenisation of primates increases the pool of growing follicles producing changes resembling PCO. In vitro studies could test the hypothesis that androgens alter early folliculogenesis, but conventional culture techniques for small follicles are generally unsuitable in non-rodent species. Our objective was to develop and use a method to investigate the effects of testosterone on early folliculogenesis. We adapted an in ovo technique in which lamb cortical ovarian fragments were grafted onto the chorioallantoic membrane of fertilised chick eggs. Optimal experimental conditions for vascularisation and survival of tissue were determined and the model then used to investigate the effects of testosterone on follicle growth. Eggs were inoculated with testosterone at the time of implantation of the ovarian tissue, which was retrieved 5 days later. Tissue was sectioned and follicles staged and counted. There was no wholesale initiation of primordial follicle growth over the 5-day in ovo culture. Importantly, the proportion of primordial, primary and secondary follicles remained similar to those in unimplanted tissue. Testosterone increased the number of primary follicles by 50% compared with controls, an effect that was largely due to a reduction in atresia. In conclusion, incubation of ovarian cortex with testosterone reproduces the changes in early folliculogenesis reported in histological studies of PCO.

Open access

P J O'Shaughnessy, L Hu, and P J Baker

It has been shown that testicular germ cell development is critically dependent upon somatic cell activity but, conversely, the extent to which germ cells normally regulate somatic cell function is less clear. This study was designed, therefore, to examine the effect of germ cell depletion on Sertoli cell and Leydig cell transcript levels. Mice were treated with busulphan to deplete the germ cell population and levels of mRNA transcripts encoding 26 Sertoli cell-specific proteins and 6 Leydig cell proteins were measured by real-time PCR up to 50 days after treatment. Spermatogonia were lost from the testis between 5 and 10 days after treatment, while spermatocytes were depleted after 10 days and spermatids after 20 days. By 30 days after treatment, most tubules were devoid of germ cells. Circulating FSH and intratesticular testosterone were not significantly affected by treatment. Of the 26 Sertoli cell markers tested, 13 showed no change in transcript levels after busulphan treatment, 2 showed decreased levels, 9 showed increased levels and 2 showed a biphasic response. In 60% of cases, changes in transcript levels occurred after the loss of the spermatids. Levels of mRNA transcripts encoding Leydig cell-specific products related to steroidogenesis were unaffected by treatment. Results indicate (1) that germ cells play a major and widespread role in the regulation of Sertoli cell activity, (2) most changes in transcript levels are associated with the loss of spermatids and (3) Leydig cell steroidogenesis is largely unaffected by germ cell ablation.