Hormone-sensitive lipase-knockout (HSL−/−) mice exhibit azoospermia for unclear reasons. To explore the basis of sterility, we performed the following three experiments. First, HSL protein distribution in the testis was determined. Next, transcriptome analyses were performed on the testes of three experimental groups. Finally, the fatty acid and cholesterol levels in the testes with three different genotypes studied were determined. We found that the HSL protein was present from spermatocyte cells to mature sperm acrosomes in wild-type (HSL+/+) testes. Spermiogenesis ceased at the elongation phase of HSL−/− testes. Transcriptome analysis indicated that genes involved in lipid metabolism, cell membrane, reproduction and inflammation-related processes were disordered in HSL−/− testes. The cholesterol content was significantly higher in HSL−/− than that in HSL+/+ testis. Therefore, gene expression and cholesterol ester content differed in HSL−/− testes compared to other testes, which may explain the sterility of male HSL−/− mice.
Feng Wang, Zheng Chen, Xiaofang Ren, Ye Tian, Fucheng Wang, Chao Liu, Pengcheng Jin, Zongyue Li, Feixiong Zhang, and Baochang Zhu
Ying Huang, Jiang-Man Gao, Chun-Mei Zhang, Hong-Cui Zhao, Yue Zhao, Rong Li, Yang Yu, and Jie Qiao
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a common reproductive disorder that has many characteristic features including hyperandrogenemia, insulin resistance and obesity, which may have significant implications for pregnancy outcomes and long-term health of women. Daughters born to PCOS mothers constitute a high-risk group for metabolic and reproductive derangements, but no report has described potential growth and metabolic risk factors for such female offspring. Hence, we used a mouse model of dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA)-induced PCOS to study the mechanisms underlying the pathology of PCOS by investigating the growth, developmental characteristics, metabolic indexes and expression profiles of key genes of offspring born to the models. We found that the average litter size was significantly smaller in the DHEA group, and female offspring had sustained higher body weight, increased body fat and triglyceride content in serum and liver; they also exhibited decreased energy expenditure, oxygen consumption and impaired glucose tolerance. Genes related to glucolipid metabolism such as Pparγ, Acot1/2, Fgf21, Pdk4 and Inhbb were upregulated in the liver of the offspring in DHEA group compared with those in controls, whereas Cyp17a1 expression was significantly decreased. However, the expression of these genes was not detected in male offspring. Our results show that female offspring in DHEA group exhibit perturbed growth and glucolipid metabolism that were not observed in male offspring.
Rupsha Fraser and Chih-Jen Lin
Gametogenesis (spermatogenesis and oogenesis) is accompanied by the acquisition of gender-specific epigenetic marks, such as DNA methylation, histone modifications and regulation by small RNAs, to form highly differentiated, but transcriptionally silent cell-types in preparation for fertilisation. Upon fertilisation, extensive global epigenetic reprogramming takes place to remove the previously acquired epigenetic marks and produce totipotent zygotic states. It is the aim of this review to delineate the cellular and molecular events involved in maternal, paternal and zygotic epigenetic reprogramming from the time of gametogenesis, through fertilisation, to the initiation of zygotic genome activation for preimplantation embryonic development. Recent studies have begun to uncover the indispensable functions of epigenetic players during gametogenesis, fertilisation and preimplantation embryo development, and a more comprehensive understanding of these early events will be informative for increasing pregnancy success rates, adding particular value to assisted fertility programmes.
Luiz G B Siqueira and Peter J Hansen
We tested whether gene expression of the bovine morula is modified by CSF2 in a sex-dependent manner and if sex determines the effect of CSF2 on competence of embryos to become blastocysts. Embryos were produced in vitro using X- or Y-sorted semen and treated at Day 5 of culture with 10 ng/mL bovine CSF2 or control. In experiment 1, morulae were collected at Day 6 and biological replicates (n = 8) were evaluated for transcript abundance of 90 genes by RT-qPCR using the Fluidigm Delta Gene assay. Expression of more than one-third (33 of 90) of genes examined was affected by sex. The effect of CSF2 on gene expression was modified by sex (P < 0.05) for five genes (DDX3Y/DDX3X-like, NANOG, MYF6, POU5F1 and RIPK3) and tended (P < 0.10) to be modified by sex for five other genes (DAPK1, HOXA5, PPP2R3A, PTEN and TNFSF8). In experiment 2, embryos were treated at Day 5 with control or CSF2 and blastocysts were collected at Day 7 for immunolabeling to determine the number of inner cell mass (ICM) and trophectoderm (TE) cells. CSF2 increased the percent of putative zygotes that became blastocysts for females, but did not affect the development of males. There was no effect of CSF2 or interaction of CSF2 with sex on the total number of blastomeres in blastocysts or in the number of inner cell mass or trophectoderm cells. In conclusion, CSF2 exerted divergent responses on gene expression and development of female and male embryos. These results are evidence of sexually dimorphic responses of the preimplantation embryo to this embryokine.
P Grasa, S Sheikh, N Krzys, K Millar, S Janjua, P Nawaggi, and S A Williams
Premature ovarian insufficiency (POI) occurs in 1% of reproductive-age women. The ovarian manifestation ranges from the presence of a variable population of follicles (follicular) to the absence of follicles (afollicular), and in the majority of cases the cause is unknown. A transgenic mouse model of follicular POI, the Double Mutant (DM), arises from oocyte-specific deletion of Mgat1 and C1galt1 required for the generation of O- and N-glycans. DM females are subfertile at 6 weeks, infertile by 9 weeks and exhibit POI by 12 weeks of age. In this study we investigate the cause of the reduced fertility at 6 weeks and infertility at 9 weeks of DM females. Ovary sections were used to analyse follicle and corpora lutea (CL) numbers, apoptosis, and levels of laminin and 3β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase using immunohistochemistry. After POI, DM females unexpectedly remained sexually receptive. At both 6 and 9 weeks, DM ovaries contained more primary follicles, however, at 9 weeks DM follicles were proportionally healthier, revealed by TUNEL analysis compared with Controls. In 9 week DM ovaries (collected post-mating), secondary follicles had theca and basal lamina structure abnormalities, whilst preovulatory follicles failed to ovulate resulting in the presence of numerous luteinised unruptured follicles, indicative of ovulation failure. Finally, DM ovaries contained more regressing CL with decreased luteal cell apoptosis indicative of a defect in CL regression. Identifying these follicular modifications have provided insight into the aetiology of a model of POI and highlight targets to investigate with the hope of developing new fertility treatments.
Atsushi Fukuda, Atsushi Mitani, Toshiyuki Miyashita, Hisato Kobayashi, Akihiro Umezawa, and Hidenori Akutsu
Spatiotemporal expression of transcription factors is crucial for genomic reprogramming. Pou5f1 (Oct4) is an essential transcription factor for reprogramming. A recent study reported that OCT4A, which is crucial for establishment and maintenance of pluripotent cells, is expressed in oocytes, but maternal OCT4A is dispensable for totipotency induction. Whereas another study reported that OCT4B, which is not related to pluripotency, is predominantly expressed instead of OCT4A during early preimplantation phases in mice. To determine the expression states of OCT4 in murine preimplantation embryos, we conducted in-depth expression and functional analyses. We found that pluripotency-related OCT4 mainly localizes to the cytoplasm in early preimplantation phases, with no major nuclear localization until the 8–16-cell stage despite high expression in both oocytes and early embryos. RNA-sequencing analysis using oocytes and early preimplantation embryos could not identify the splice variants creating alternative forms of OCT4 protein. Forced expression of OCT4 in zygotes by the injection of polyadenylated mRNA clearly showed nuclear localization of OCT4 protein around 3–5-fold greater than physiological levels and impaired developmental competency in a dose-dependent manner. Embryos with modest overexpression of OCT4 could develop to the 16-cell stage; however, more than 50% of the embryos were arrested at this stage, similar to the results for OCT4 depletion. In contrast, extensive overexpression of OCT4 resulted in complete arrest at the 2-cell stage accompanied by downregulation of zygotically activated genes and repetitive elements related to the totipotent state. These results demonstrated that OCT4 protein localization was spatiotemporally altered during preimplantation development, and strict control of Oct4 protein levels was essential for proper totipotential reprogramming.
Tina Bianco-Miotto, Benjamin T Mayne, Sam Buckberry, James Breen, Carlos M Rodriguez Lopez, and Claire T Roberts
Epigenetic modifications, and particularly DNA methylation, have been studied in many tissues, both healthy and diseased, and across numerous developmental stages. The placenta is the only organ that has a transient life of 9 months and undergoes rapid growth and dynamic structural and functional changes across gestation. Additionally, the placenta is unique because although developing within the mother, its genome is identical to that of the foetus. Given these distinctive characteristics, it is not surprising that the epigenetic landscape affecting placental gene expression may be different to that in other healthy tissues. However, the role of epigenetic modifications, and particularly DNA methylation, in placental development remains largely unknown. Of particular interest is the fact that the placenta is the most hypomethylated human tissue and is characterized by the presence of large partially methylated domains (PMDs) containing silenced genes. Moreover, how and why the placenta is hypomethylated and what role DNA methylation plays in regulating placental gene expression across gestation are poorly understood. We review genome-wide DNA methylation studies in the human placenta and highlight that the different cell types that make up the placenta have very different DNA methylation profiles. Summarizing studies on DNA methylation in the placenta and its relationship with pregnancy complications are difficult due to the limited number of studies available for comparison. To understand the key steps in placental development and hence what may be perturbed in pregnancy complications requires large-scale genome-wide DNA methylation studies coupled with transcriptome analyses.
Cheryl J Ashworth, Susan O George, Charis O Hogg, Yu-Ting Lai, and Paula J Brunton
Social stress during pregnancy has profound effects on offspring physiology. This study examined whether an ethologically relevant social stress during late pregnancy in rats alters the reproductive axis and adrenal gland structure in post-pubertal male and female offspring. Prenatally stressed (PNS) pregnant rats (n=9) were exposed to an unfamiliar lactating rat for 10 min/day from day 16 to 20 of pregnancy inclusive, whereas control pregnant rats (n=9) remained in their home cages. Gonads, adrenal glands and blood samples were obtained from one female and one male from each litter at 11 to 12-weeks of age. Anogenital distance was measured. There was no treatment effect on body, adrenal or gonad weight at 11–12 weeks. PNS did not affect the number of primordial, secondary or tertiary ovarian follicles, numbers of corpora lutea or ovarian FSH receptor expression. There was an indication that PNS females had more primary follicles and greater ovarian aromatase expression compared with control females (both P=0.09). PNS males had longer anogenital distances (0.01±0.0 cm/g vs 0.008±0.00 cm/g; P=0.007) and higher plasma FSH concentrations (0.05 ng/mL vs 0.006 ng/mL; s.e.d.=0.023; P=0.043) compared with control males. There were no treatment effects on the number of Sertoli cells or seminiferous tubules, seminiferous tubule area, plasma testosterone concentration or testis expression of aromatase, FSH receptor or androgen receptor. PNS did not affect adrenal size. These data suggest that the developing male reproductive axis is more sensitive to maternal stress and that PNS may enhance aspects of male reproductive development.
S J Calvert, M S Longtine, S Cotter, C J P Jones, C P Sibley, J D Aplin, D M Nelson, and A E P Heazell
Syncytial nuclear aggregates (SNAs), clusters of nuclei in the syncytiotrophoblast of the human placenta, are increased as gestation advances and in pregnancy pathologies. The origins of increased SNAs are unclear; however, a better appreciation of the mechanism may give insight into placental ageing and factors underpinning dysfunction. We developed three models to investigate whether SNA formation results from a dynamic process of nuclear movement and to generate alternative hypotheses. SNA count and size were measured in placental explants cultured over 16 days and particles released into culture medium were quantified. Primary trophoblasts were cultured for 6 days. Explants and trophoblasts were cultured with and without cytoskeletal inhibitors. An in silico model was developed to examine the effects of modulating nuclear behaviour on clustering. In explants, neither median SNA number (108 SNA/mm2 villous area) nor size (283 μm2) changed over time. Subcellular particles from conditioned culture medium showed a wide range of sizes that overlapped with those of SNAs. Nuclei in primary trophoblasts did not change position relative to other nuclei; apparent movement was associated with positional changes of the syncytial cell membrane. In both models, SNAs and nuclear clusters were stable despite pharmacological disruption of cytoskeletal activity. In silico, increased nuclear movement, adhesiveness and sites of cytotrophoblast fusion were related to nuclear clustering. The prominence of SNAs in pregnancy disorders may not result from an active process involving cytoskeleton-mediated rearrangement of syncytial nuclei. Further insights into the mechanism(s) of SNA formation will aid understanding of their increased presence in pregnancy pathologies.
Corinne Grey, Julien Espeut, Rachel Ametsitsi, Rajeev Kumar, Malgorzata Luksza, Christine Brun, Marie-Hélene Verlhac, José Angél Suja, and Bernard de Massy
In sexually reproducing organisms, accurate gametogenesis is crucial for the transmission of genetic material from one generation to the next. This requires the faithful segregation of chromosomes during mitotic and meiotic divisions. One of the main players in this process is the kinetochore, a large multi-protein complex that forms at the interface of centromeres and microtubules. Here, we analyzed the expression profile and function of small kinetochore-associated protein (SKAP) in the mouse. We found that two distinct SKAP isoforms are specifically expressed in the germline: a smaller isoform, which is detected in spermatogonia and spermatocytes and localized in the outer mitotic and meiotic kinetochores from metaphase to telophase, and a larger isoform, which is expressed in the cytoplasm of elongating spermatids. We generated SKAP-deficient mice and found that testis size and sperm production were severely reduced in mutant males. This phenotype was partially caused by defects during spermatogonia proliferation before entry into meiosis. We conclude that mouse SKAP, while being dispensable for somatic cell divisions, has an important role in the successful outcome of male gametogenesis. In germ cells, analogous to what has been suggested in studies using immortalized cells, SKAP most likely stabilizes the interaction between kinetochores and microtubules, where it might be needed as an extra safeguard to ensure the correct segregation of mitotic and meiotic chromosomes.