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Open access

Tomoya Takashima, Tsubasa Fujimaru, and Yayoi Obata

In vitro generation of fertile oocytes has been reported in several mammalian species. However, oocyte integrity is compromised by in vitro culture. Here, we aimed to understand the factors affecting oocyte competency by evaluating mitochondrial function and transcriptome as well as lipid metabolism in in vivo-derived oocytes and in vitro grown and matured (IVGM) oocytes under atmospheric (20%) and physiological (7%) O2 concentration. We used single-cell RNA-sequencing as well as Gene Ontology and KEGG analyses to identify the molecular pathways affecting the developmental competence of oocytes. Oocytes grown under 20% O2 conditions showed a significant decrease in mitochondrial membrane potential, upregulation of ceramide synthesis pathway-associated genes, and high ceramide accumulation compared with oocytes grown under 7% O2 conditions and in vivo-grown oocytes. This suggests that excess ceramide level causes mitochondrial dysfunction and poor developmental ability of the oocytes. Mitochondrial DNA copy number was lower in IVGM oocytes irrespective of O2 concentration in culture, although there was no common abnormality in the expression of genes related to mitochondrial biosynthesis. In contrast, some oocytes produced under 7% O2 conditions showed gene expression profiles similar to those of in vivo-grown oocytes. In these oocytes, the expression of transcription factors, including Nobox, was restored. Nobox expression correlated with the expression of genes essential for oocyte development. Thus, Nobox may contribute to the establishment of oocyte competency before and after the growth phase. The comprehensive analysis of IVGM oocytes presented here provides a platform for elucidating the mechanism underlying functional oocyte production in vivo.

Open access

Dengfeng Bi, Jing Yao, Yu Wang, Guosong Qin, Yunting Zhang, Yanfang Wang, and Jianguo Zhao

An efficient mRNA knockdown strategy is needed to explore gene function in cells and embryos, especially to understand the process of maternal mRNA decay during early embryo development. Cas13, a novel RNA-targeting CRISPR effector protein, could bind and cleave complementary single-strand RNA, which has been employed for mRNA knockdown in mouse and human cells and RNA-virus interference in plants. Cas13 has not yet been reported to be used in pigs. In the current study, we explored the feasibility of CRISPR/Cas13d-mediated endogenous RNA knockdown in pigs. KDM5B, a histone demethylase of H3K4me3, was downregulated at the transcriptional level by 50% with CRISPR/Cas13d in porcine fibroblast cells. Knockdown of KDM5B-induced H3K4me3 expression and decreased the abundance of H3K27me3, H3K9me3, H3K4ac, H4K8ac, and H4K12ac. These changes affected cell proliferation and cell cycle. Furthermore, stable integration of the CRISPR/Cas13d system into the porcine genome resulted in the continuous expression of Cas13d and persistent knockdown of KDM5B. Finally, the RNA-targeting potential of Cas13d was further validated in porcine parthenogenetic embryos. By microinjection of Cas13d mRNA and gRNA targeting KDM5B into porcine oocytes, the expression of KDM5B was downregulated, the abundance of H3K4me3 increased as expected, and the expression of embryonic development-related genes was changed accordingly. These results indicate that CRISPR/Cas13d provides an easily programmable platform for spatiotemporal transcriptional manipulation in pigs.

Open access

Coleman H Young, Bryce Snow, Stanley B DeVore, Adithya Mohandass, Venkatesh V Nemmara, Paul R Thompson, Baskaran Thyagarajan, Amy M Navratil, and Brian D Cherrington

Peptidylarginine deiminases (PAD) enzymes were initially characterized in uteri, but since then little research has examined their function in this tissue. PADs post-translationally convert arginine residues in target proteins to citrulline and are highly expressed in ovine caruncle epithelia and ovine uterine luminal epithelial (OLE)-derived cell line. Progesterone (P4) not only maintains the uterine epithelia but also regulates the expression of endometrial genes that code for proteins that comprise the histotroph and are critical during early pregnancy. Given this, we tested whether P4 stimulates PAD-catalyzed histone citrullination to epigenetically regulate expression of the histotroph gene insulin-like growth factor binding protein 1 (IGFBP1) in OLE cells. 100 nM P4 significantly increases IGFBP1 mRNA expression; however, this increase is attenuated by pre-treating OLE cells with 100 nM progesterone receptor antagonist RU486 or 2 µM of a pan-PAD inhibitor. P4 treatment of OLE cells also stimulates citrullination of histone H3 arginine residues 2, 8, and 17 leading to enrichment of the ovine IGFBP1 gene promoter. Since PAD2 nuclear translocation and catalytic activity require calcium, we next investigated whether P4 triggers calcium influx in OLE cells. OLE cells were pre-treated with 10 nM nicardipine, an L-type calcium channel blocker, followed by stimulation with P4. Using fura2-AM imaging, we found that P4 initiates a rapid calcium influx through L-type calcium channels in OLE cells. Furthermore, this influx is necessary for PAD2 nuclear translocation and resulting citrullination of histone H3 arginine residues 2, 8, and 17. Our work suggests that P4 stimulates rapid calcium influx through L-type calcium channels initiating PAD-catalyzed histone citrullination and an increase in IGFBP1 expression.

Open access

Ramiro Alberio and Eckhard Wolf

The birth and adult development of 'Dolly' the sheep, the first mammal produced by the transfer of a terminally differentiated cell nucleus into an egg, provided unequivocal evidence of nuclear equivalence among somatic cells. This ground-breaking experiment challenged a long-standing dogma of irreversible cellular differentiation that prevailed for over a century and enabled the development of methodologies for reversal of differentiation of somatic cells, also known as nuclear reprogramming. Thanks to this new paradigm, novel alternatives for regenerative medicine in humans, improved animal breeding in domestic animals and approaches to species conservation through reproductive methodologies have emerged. Combined with the incorporation of new tools for genetic modification, these novel techniques promise to (i) transform and accelerate our understanding of genetic diseases and the development of targeted therapies through creation of tailored animal models, (ii) provide safe animal cells, tissues and organs for xenotransplantation, (iii) contribute to the preservation of endangered species, and (iv) improve global food security whilst reducing the environmental impact of animal production. This review discusses recent advances that build on the conceptual legacy of nuclear transfer and – when combined with gene editing – will have transformative potential for medicine, biodiversity and sustainable agriculture. We conclude that the potential of these technologies depends on further fundamental and translational research directed at improving the efficiency and safety of these methods.

Open access

Xiao Han, Cong Zhang, Xiangping Ma, Xiaowei Yan, Bohui Xiong, Wei Shen, Shen Yin, Hongfu Zhang, Qingyuan Sun, and Yong Zhao

Muscarinic acetylcholine receptor (mAChR) antagonists have been reported to decrease male fertility; however, the roles of mAChRs in spermatogenesis and the underlying mechanisms are not understood yet. During spermatogenesis, extensive remodeling between Sertoli cells and/or germ cells interfaces takes place to accommodate the transport of developing germ cells across the blood-testis barrier (BTB) and adluminal compartment. The cell–cell junctions play a vital role in the spermatogenesis process. This study used ICR male mice and spermatogonial cells (C18-4) and Sertoli cells (TM-4). shRNA of control or M5 gene was injected into 5-week-old ICR mice testes. Ten days post-viral grafting, mice were deeply anesthetized with pentobarbital and the testes were collected. One testicle was fresh frozen for RNA-seq analysis or Western blotting (WB). The second testicle was fixed for immunofluorescence staining (IHF). C18-4 or TM-4 cells were treated with shRNA of control or M5 gene. Then, the cells were collected for RNA-seq analysis, WB, or IHF. Knockdown of mAChR M5 disrupted mouse spermatogenesis and damaged the actin-based cytoskeleton and many types of junction proteins in both Sertoli cells and germ cells. M5 knockdown decreased Phldb2 expression in both germ cells and Sertoli cells which suggested that Phldb2 may be involved in cytoskeleton and cell–cell junction formation to regulate spermatogenesis. Our investigation has elucidated a novel role for mAChR M5 in the regulation of spermatogenesis through the interactions of Phldb2 and cell–cell junctions. M5 may be an attractive future therapeutic target in the treatment of male reproductive disorders.

Open access

Yu-chen Zhang, Xiao-li Qin, Xiao-ling Ma, Hui-qin Mo, Shi Qin, Cheng-xi Zhang, Xiao-wei Wei, Xue-qing Liu, Yan Zhang, Fu-ju Tian, and Yi Lin

Preeclampsia is a gestational hypertensive disease; however, preeclampsia remains poorly understood. Bioinformatics analysis was applied to find novel genes involved in the pathogenesis of preeclampsia and identified CLDN1 as one of the most differentially expressed genes when comparing patients with preeclampsia and healthy controls. The results of the qRT-PCR, Western blotting and immunohistochemistry experiments demonstrated that CLDN1 was significantly downregulated in the chorionic villi in samples from patients with preeclampsia. Furthermore, knockdown of CLDN1 in HTR-8/SVneo cells resulted in the inhibition of proliferation and induction of apoptosis, and overexpression of CLDN1 reversed these effects. In addition, RNA-seq assays demonstrated that the gene BIRC3 is potentially downstream of CLDN1 and is involved in the regulation of apoptosis. Knockdown of CLDN1 confirmed that the expression level of BIRC3 was obviously decreased and was associated with a significant increase in cleaved PARP. Interestingly, the apoptotic effect in CLDN1 knockdown cells was rescued after BIRC3 overexpression. Overall, these results indicate that a decrease in CLDN1 inhibits BIRC3 expression and increases cleaved PARP levels thus participating in the pathogenesis of preeclampsia.

Open access

Rowena Smith, Sue J Pickering, Anna Kopakaki, K J Thong, Richard A Anderson, and Chih-Jen Lin

Elucidating the mechanisms underpinning fertilisation is essential to optimising IVF procedures. One of the critical steps involves paternal chromatin reprogramming, in which compacted sperm chromatin packed by protamines is removed by oocyte factors and new histones, including histone H3.3, are incorporated. HIRA is the main H3.3 chaperone governing this protamine-to-histone exchange. Failure of this step results in abnormally fertilised zygotes containing only one pronucleus (1PN), in contrast to normal two-pronuclei (2PN) zygotes. 1PN zygotes are frequently observed in IVF treatments, but the genotype-phenotype correlation remains elusive. We investigated the maternal functions of two other molecules of the HIRA complex, Cabin1 and Ubn1, in mouse. Loss-of-function Cabin1 and Ubn1 mouse models were developed: their zygotes displayed an abnormal 1PN zygote phenotype. We then studied human 1PN zygotes and found that the HIRA complex was absent in 1PN zygotes that lacked the male pronucleus. This shows that the role of the HIRA complex in male pronucleus formation potentially has coherence from mice to humans. Furthermore, rescue experiments in mouse showed that the abnormal 1PN phenotype derived from Hira mutants could be resolved by overexpression of HIRA. We have demonstrated that HIRA complex regulates male pronucleus formation in mice and is implicated in humans, that both CABIN1 and UBN1 components of the HIRA complex are equally essential for male pronucleus formation, and that rescue is feasible.

Open access

Aleona Swegen

Maternal recognition of pregnancy (MRP) is a process by which an early conceptus signals its presence to the maternal system and prevents the lysis of the corpus luteum, thus ensuring a maternal milieu supportive of pregnancy continuation. It is a fundamental aspect of reproductive biology, yet in the horse, the mechanism underlying MRP remains unknown. This review seeks to address some of the controversies surrounding the evidence and theories of MRP in the equine species, such as the idea that the horse does not conform to the MRP paradigm established in other species or that equine MRP involves a mechanical, rather than chemical, signal. The review examines the challenges of studying this particularly clandestine phenomenon along with the new tools in scientific research that will drive this quest forward in coming years, and discusses the value of knowledge gleaned along this path in the context of clinical applications for improving breeding outcomes in the horse industry.

Open access

Martina Langhammer, Erika Wytrwat, Marten Michaelis, Jennifer Schön, Armin Tuchscherer, Norbert Reinsch, and Joachim M Weitzel

We recently described two outbred mouse lines that were selected for large litter size at first delivery. However, lifetime fecundity appears to be economically more important for the husbandry of many polytocous species for which mouse lines might serve as bona fide animal models (e.g. for pigs). In the present study, we compared the lifetime fecundities of two highly fertile mouse lines (FL1 and FL2: >20 offspring/litter at first delivery) with those of an unselected control line (ctrl) and two lines that were selected for high body weight (DU6) and high protein mass (DU6P) without selection pressure on fertility. We tested the hypothesis that selection for large litter size at first parturition would also increase lifetime fecundity in mice, and we observed very large differences between lines. Whereas FL1 and ctrl delivered up to nine and ten litters, none of the DU6 and DU6P females gave birth to more than five litters. In line with this observation, FL1 delivered the most pups per lifetime (85.7/female). FL2 females produced the largest average litter sizes (20.4 pups/litter) in the first four litters; however, they displayed a reduced number of litters. With the exception of ctrl, litter sizes declined from litter to litter. Repeated delivery of litters with high offspring numbers did not affect the general health of FL females. The presented data demonstrate that two biodiverse, highly fertile mouse lines selected for large litter size at first delivery show different lifetime reproductive fitness levels. Thus, these mouse lines might serve as valuable mouse models for investigating lifetime productivity and longevity in farm animals.