Reprogramming epigenetic modifications to cytosine is required for normal embryo development. We used improved immunolocalization techniques to simultaneously map global changes in the levels of 5′-methylcytosine (5meC) and 5′-hydroxymethylcytosine (5hmC) in each cell of the embryo from fertilization through the first rounds of cellular differentiation. The male and female pronuclei of the zygote showed similar staining levels, and these remained elevated over the next three cell cycles. The inner cells of the morula showed a progressive reduction in global levels of both 5meC and 5hmC and further losses occurred in the pluripotent inner cell mass (ICM) of the blastocyst. This was accompanied by undetectable levels of DNA methyltransferase of each class in the nuclei of the ICM, while DNA methyltransferase 3B was elevated in the hypermethylated nuclei of the trophectoderm (TE). Segregation of the ICM into hypoblast and epiblast was accompanied by increased levels in the hypoblast compared with the epiblast. Blastocyst outgrowth in vitro is a model for implantation and showed that a demethylated state persisted in the epiblast while the hypoblast had higher levels of both 5meC and 5hmC staining. The high levels of 5meC and 5hmC evident in the TE persisted in trophoblast and trophoblast giant cells after attachment of the blastocyst to the substratum in vitro. This study shows that global cytosine hypomethylation and hypohydroxymethylation accompanied the formation of the pluripotent ICM and this persisted into the epiblast after blastocyst outgrowth, and each differentiated lineage formed in the early embryo showed higher global levels of 5meC and 5hmC.
Y Li, Michelle K Y Seah, and C O'Neill
Wenqian Xiong, Ling Zhang, Lan Yu, Wei Xie, Yicun Man, Yao Xiong, Hengwei Liu, and Yi Liu
Endometriosis is an estrogen-dependent disease that involves the adhesion, invasion, and angiogenesis of endometrial tissues outside of the uterine cavity. We hypothesized that a link exists between estrogen and beta-catenin (β-catenin) signaling in the pathogenesis of endometriosis. Human endometrial stromal cells (HESCs) were separated from eutopic endometrial tissues that were obtained from patients with endometriosis. β-catenin expression and cells invasiveness ability were up-regulated by 17β-estradiol (E2) in an estrogen receptor (ESR)-dependent manner, whereas β-catenin siRNA abrogated this phenomenon. Moreover, co-immunoprecipitation and dual immunofluorescence studies confirmed ESR1, β-catenin, and lymphoid enhancer factor 1/T cell factor 3 co-localization in the nucleus in HESCs after E2 treatment. To determine the role of β-catenin signaling in the implantation of ectopic endometrium, we xenotransplanted eutopic endometrium from endometriosis patients into ovariectomized severe combined immunodeficiency mice. The implantation of the endometrium was suppressed by β-catenin siRNA. Collectively, studies regarding β-catenin signaling are critical for improving our understanding of the pathogenesis of estrogen-induced endometriosis, which can translate into the development of treatments and therapeutic strategies for endometriosis.
Mohammad Atikuzzaman, Ratnesh Mehta Bhai, Jesper Fogelholm, Dominic Wright, and Heriberto Rodriguez-Martinez
The female chicken, as with other species with internal fertilization, can tolerate the presence of spermatozoa within specialized sperm-storage tubuli (SST) located in the mucosa of the utero-vaginal junction (UVJ) for days or weeks, without eliciting an immune response. To determine if the oviduct alters its gene expression in response to sperm entry, segments from the oviduct (UVJ, uterus, isthmus, magnum and infundibulum) of mated and unmated (control) hens, derived from an advanced inter-cross line between Red Junglefowl and White Leghorn, were explored 24 h after mating using cDNA microarray analysis. Mating shifted the expression of fifteen genes in the UVJ (53.33% immune-modulatory and 20.00% pH-regulatory) and seven genes in the uterus, none of the genes in the latter segment overlapping the former (with the differentially expressed genes themselves being less related to immune-modulatory function). The other oviductal segments did not show any significant changes. These findings suggest sperm deposition causes a shift in expression in the UVJ (containing mucosal SST) and the uterus for genes involved in immune-modulatory and pH-regulatory functions, both relevant for sperm survival in the hen's oviduct.
Grisha Pirianov, David A MacIntyre, Yun Lee, Simon N Waddington, Vasso Terzidou, Huseyin Mehmet, and Phillip R Bennett
Preterm labour (PTL) is commonly associated with infection and/or inflammation. Lipopolysaccharide (LPS) from different bacteria can be used to independently or mutually activate Jun N-terminal kinase (JNK)/AP1- or NF-κB-driven inflammatory pathways that lead to PTL. Previous studies using Salmonella abortus LPS, which activates both JNK/AP-1 and NF-κB, showed that selective inhibition of NF-κB delays labour and improves pup outcome. Where labour is induced using Escherichia coli LPS (O111), which upregulates JNK/AP-1 but not NF-κB, inhibition of JNK/AP-1 activation also delays labour. In this study, to determine the potential role of JNK as a therapeutic target in PTL, we investigated the specific contribution of JNK signalling to S. Abortus LPS-induced PTL in mice. Intrauterine administration of S. Abortus LPS to pregnant mice resulted in the activation of JNK in the maternal uterus and fetal brain, upregulation of pro-inflammatory proteins COX-2, CXCL1, and CCL2, phosphorylation of cPLA2 in myometrium, and induction of PTL. Specific inhibition of JNK by co-administration of specific D-JNK inhibitory peptide (D-JNKI) delayed LPS-induced preterm delivery and reduced fetal mortality. This is associated with inhibition of myometrial cPLA2 phosphorylation and proinflammatory proteins synthesis. In addition, we report that D-JNKI inhibits the activation of JNK/JNK3 and caspase-3, which are important mediators of neural cell death in the neonatal brain. Our data demonstrate that specific inhibition of TLR4-activated JNK signalling pathways has potential as a therapeutic approach in the management of infection/inflammation-associated PTL and prevention of the associated detrimental effects to the neonatal brain.
Joao Correia, Francesco Michelangeli, and Stephen Publicover
[Ca2 +]i signalling is a key regulatory mechanism in sperm function. In mammalian sperm the Ca2 +-permeable plasma membrane ion channel CatSper is central to [Ca2 +]i signalling, but there is good evidence that Ca2 + stored in intracellular organelles is also functionally important. Here we briefly review the current understanding of the diversity of Ca2 + stores and the mechanisms for the regulation of their activity. We then consider the evidence for the involvement of these stores in [Ca2 +]i signalling in mammalian (primarily human) sperm, the agonists that may activate these stores and their role in control of sperm function. Finally we consider the evidence that membrane Ca2 + channels and stored Ca2 + may play discrete roles in the regulation of sperm activities and propose a mechanism by which these different components of the sperm Ca2 +-signalling apparatus may interact to generate complex and spatially diverse [Ca2 +]i signals.
Adam J Watkins, Emma S Lucas, Stephanie Marfy-Smith, Nicola Bates, Susan J Kimber, and Tom P Fleming
Mammalian placentation is dependent upon the action of trophoblast cells at the time of implantation. Appropriate fetal growth, regulated by maternal nutrition and nutrient transport across the placenta, is a critical factor for adult offspring long-term health. We have demonstrated that a mouse maternal low-protein diet (LPD) fed exclusively during preimplantation development (Emb-LPD) increases offspring growth but programmes adult cardiovascular and metabolic disease. In this study, we investigate the impact of maternal nutrition on post-implantation trophoblast phenotype and fetal growth. Ectoplacental cone explants were isolated at day 8 of gestation from female mice fed either normal protein diet (NPD: 18% casein), LPD (9% casein) or Emb-LPD and cultured in vitro. We observed enhanced spreading and cell division within proliferative and secondary trophoblast giant cells (TGCs) emerging from explants isolated from LPD-fed females when compared with NPD and Emb-LPD explants after 24 and 48 h. Moreover, both LPD and Emb-LPD explants showed substantial expansion of TGC area during 24–48 h, not observed in NPD. No difference in invasive capacity was observed between treatments using Matrigel transwell migration assays. At day 17 of gestation, LPD- and Emb-LPD-fed conceptuses displayed smaller placentas and larger fetuses respectively, resulting in increased fetal:placental ratios in both groups compared with NPD conceptuses. Analysis of placental and yolk sac nutrient signalling within the mammalian target of rapamycin complex 1 pathway revealed similar levels of total and phosphorylated downstream targets across groups. These data demonstrate that early post-implantation embryos modify trophoblast phenotype to regulate fetal growth under conditions of poor maternal nutrition.
Panayiota Ploutarchou, Pedro Melo, Anthony J Day, Caroline M Milner, and Suzannah A Williams
During follicle development, oocytes secrete factors that influence the development of granulosa and cumulus cells (CCs). In response to oocyte and somatic cell signals, CCs produce extracellular matrix (ECM) molecules resulting in cumulus expansion, which is essential for ovulation, fertilisation, and is predictive of oocyte quality. The cumulus ECM is largely made up of hyaluronan (HA), TNF-stimulated gene-6 (TSG-6, also known as TNFAIP6), pentraxin-3 (PTX3), and the heavy chains (HCs) of serum-derived inter-α-inhibitor proteins. In contrast to other in vivo models where modified expansion impairs fertility, the cumulus mass of C1galt1 Mutants, which have oocyte-specific deletion of core 1-derived O-glycans, is modified without impairing fertility. In this report, we used C1galt1 Mutant (C1galt1 FF :ZP3Cre) and Control (C1galt1 FF ) mice to investigate how cumulus expansion is affected by oocyte-specific deletion of core 1-derived O-glycans without adversely affecting oocyte quality. Mutant cumulus–oocyte complexes (COCs) are smaller than Controls, with fewer CCs. Interestingly, the CCs in Mutant mice are functionally normal as each cell produced normal levels of the ECM molecules HA, TSG-6, and PTX3. However, HC levels were elevated in Mutant COCs. These data reveal that oocyte glycoproteins carrying core 1-derived O-glycans have a regulatory role in COC development. In addition, our study of Controls indicates that a functional COC can form provided all essential components are present above a minimum threshold level, and thus some variation in ECM composition does not adversely affect oocyte development, ovulation or fertilisation. These data have important implications for IVF and the use of cumulus expansion as a criterion for oocyte assessment.
Zhao-Jia Ge, Heide Schatten, Cui-Lian Zhang, and Qing-Yuan Sun
It has become a current social trend for women to delay childbearing. However, the quality of oocytes from older females is compromised and the pregnancy rate of older women is lower. With the increased rate of delayed childbearing, it is becoming more and more crucial to understand the mechanisms underlying the compromised quality of oocytes from older women, including mitochondrial dysfunctions, aneuploidy and epigenetic changes. Establishing proper epigenetic modifications during oogenesis and early embryo development is an important aspect in reproduction. The reprogramming process may be influenced by external and internal factors that result in improper epigenetic changes in germ cells. Furthermore, germ cell epigenetic changes might be inherited by the next generations. In this review, we briefly summarise the effects of ageing on oocyte quality. We focus on discussing the relationship between ageing and epigenetic modifications, highlighting the epigenetic changes in oocytes from advanced-age females and in post-ovulatory aged oocytes as well as the possible underlying mechanisms.
Alicia A Goyeneche and Carlos M Telleria
Antiprogestins constitute a group of compounds, developed since the early 1980s, that bind progesterone receptors with different affinities. The first clinical uses for antiprogestins were in reproductive medicine, e.g., menstrual regulation, emergency contraception, and termination of early pregnancies. These initial applications, however, belied the capacity for these compounds to interfere with cell growth. Within the context of gynecological diseases, antiprogestins can block the growth of and kill gynecological-related cancer cells, such as those originating in the breast, ovary, endometrium, and cervix. They can also interrupt the excessive growth of cells giving rise to benign gynecological diseases such as endometriosis and leiomyomata (uterine fibroids). In this article, we present a review of the literature providing support for the antigrowth activity that antiprogestins impose on cells in various gynecological diseases. We also provide a summary of the cellular and molecular mechanisms reported for these compounds that lead to cell growth inhibition and death. The preclinical knowledge gained during the past few years provides robust evidence to encourage the use of antiprogestins in order to alleviate the burden of gynecological diseases, either as monotherapies or as adjuvants of other therapies with the perspective of allowing for long-term treatments with tolerable side effects. The key to the clinical success of antiprogestins in this field probably lies in selecting those patients who will benefit from this therapy. This can be achieved by defining the genetic makeup required – within each particular gynecological disease – for attaining an objective response to antiprogestin-driven growth inhibition therapy.
Free Spanish abstract
A Spanish translation of this abstract is freely available at http://www.reproduction-online.org/content/149/1/R15/suppl/DC1.
Nady El Hajj, Eberhard Schneider, Harald Lehnen, and Thomas Haaf
The phenomenon that adverse environmental exposures in early life are associated with increased susceptibilities for many adult, particularly metabolic diseases, is now referred to as ‘developmental origins of health and disease (DOHAD)’ or ‘Barker’ hypothesis. Fetal overnutrition and undernutrition have similar long-lasting effects on the setting of the neuroendocrine control systems, energy homeostasis, and metabolism, leading to life-long increased morbidity. There are sensitive time windows during early development, where environmental cues can program persistent epigenetic modifications which are generally assumed to mediate these gene–environment interactions. Most of our current knowledge on fetal programing comes from animal models and epidemiological studies in humans, in particular the Dutch famine birth cohort. In industrialized countries, there is more concern about adverse long-term consequences of fetal overnutrition, i.e. by exposure to gestational diabetes mellitus and/or maternal obesity which affect 10–20% of pregnancies. Epigenetic changes due to maternal diabetes/obesity may predispose the offspring to develop metabolic disease later in life and, thus, transmit the adverse environmental exposure to the next generation. This vicious cycle could contribute significantly to the worldwide metabolic disease epidemics. In this review article, we focus on the epigenetics of an adverse intrauterine environment, in particular gestational diabetes, and its implications for the prevention of complex disease.