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Open access

Belinda K M Lo, Sairah Sheikh and Suzannah A Williams

Follicle development requires complex and coordinated interactions between both the oocyte and its associated somatic cells. In ovarian dysfunction, follicle development may be abnormal due to defective somatic cell function; for example, premature ovarian insufficiency or malignancies. Replacing defective somatic cells, using the reaggregated ovary (RO) technique, may ‘rescue’ follicle development. ROs containing mature follicles have been generated when transplanted to a host mouse to develop. We have developed a RO culture technique and the aims were to determine how follicle development differed between transplanted and cultured ROs, and the influence of ovarian age (P2 vs P6). Mouse ROs were cultured for 14 days; P2 and P6 ovaries cultured as Controls. Follicle development was compared to ROs transplanted for 14 days and ovaries from P16 and P20 mice. ROs generated from either P2 or P6 exhibited similar follicle development in culture whereas in vivo follicle development was more advanced in P6 ROs. Follicles were more developed in cultured ROs than transplanted ROs. However, follicles in cultured ROs and ovaries had smaller oocytes with fewer theca and granulosa cells than in vivo counterparts. Our results demonstrate the fluidity of follicle development despite ovary dissociation and that environment is more important to basal lamina formation and theca cell development. Furthermore, follicle development within cultured ROs appears to be independent of oocyte nest breakdown and primordial follicle formation in source ovaries. Our results highlight the need for understanding follicle development in vitro, particularly in the development of the RO technique as a potential fertility treatment.

Open access

Claire Stenhouse, Charis O Hogg and Cheryl Joy Ashworth

Integrins regulate adhesion at the feto-maternal interface by interacting with secreted phosphoprotein 1 (SPP1) and fibronectin (FN). It is hypothesised that impaired foetal growth of ‘runt’ piglets is linked to altered integrin signalling at the feto-maternal interface.

Placental and endometrial samples associated with the lightest and closest to mean litter weight (CTMLW) (gestational day (GD18, 30, 45, 60 and 90), of both sex (GD30, 45, 60 and 90) (n=5-8 litters/GD), Large White X Landrace conceptuses or foetuses were obtained. The mRNA expression of the integrin subunits (ITG) ITGA2, ITGAV, ITGB1, ITGB3, ITGB5, ITGB6, ITGB8, SPP1 and FN was quantified by qPCR.

Temporal changes in mRNA expression were observed, with different profiles in the two tissues. Endometrial ITGB1 (P≤0.05, GD45) and SPP1 (P≤0.05, all GD combined and GD60) expression was decreased in samples supplying the lightest compared to the CTMLW foetuses. Placentas supplying female foetuses had decreased expression of ITGB6 (GD45, P≤0.05) and FN (GD90, P≤0.05) compared to those supplying male foetuses. Endometrial samples supplying females had increased ITGB3 (P≤0.05, GD60) and FN (P≤0.05, GD30) expression and decreased SPP1 (P≤0.05, GD60) expression compared to male foetuses. Correlations between mean within gilt mRNA expression and percentage prenatal survival, number of live foetuses or conceptuses and percentage male foetuses were observed.

This study has highlighted novel and dynamic associations between foetal size, sex and integrin subunit mRNA expression at the porcine feto-maternal interface. Further studies should be performed to improve the understanding of the mechanisms behind these novel findings.

Open access

Jie Mei, Yuan Yan, Shi-Yuan Li, Wen-Jie Zhou, Qun Zhang, Ming-Qing Li and Hai-Xiang Sun

Decidualization renders the endometrium transiently receptive to an implanting blastocyst although the underlying mechanisms remain incompletely understood. The aim of this study was to determine the role of chemokine CXCL16 and its receptor CXCR6 in the decidualization during pregnancy. Here, the expression of CXCL16 was investigated in endometrial tissues, decidua, and placenta in this study. Compared with endometrial tissue, protein expression of CXCL16 was significantly higher in tissues from the fertile control samples, especially in villus. Meanwhile, the primary trophoblast cells and decidual stromal cells (DSCs) secreted more CXCL16 and expressed higher CXCR6 compared to endometrial stromal cells (ESCs) in vitro. Stimulation with the inducer of decidualization (8-bromoadenosine 3′,5′-cyclic with medroxyprogesterone acetate, 8-Br-cAMP plus MPA) significantly upregulated the expression of CXCL16 and CXCR6 in ESCs in vitro. After treatment with exogenous recombinant human CXCL16 (rhCXCL16) or trophoblast-secreted CXLC16, decidualised ESCs showed a significant decidual response, mainly characterised by increased prolactin (PRL) secretion. Simultaneously, PI3K/PDK1/AKT/Cyclin D1 pathway in decidualised ESCs were activated by rhCXCL16, and AKT inhibitor GS 690693 abolished the PRL secretion of ESCs that was triggered by rhCXCL16. Finally, the impaired CXCL16/CXCR6 expression could be observed at the maternal-foetal interface from patients who have experienced spontaneous abortion. This study suggests that the CXCL16/CXCR6 axis contributes to the progression of ESC decidualization by activating PI3K/PDK1/AKT/Cyclin D1 pathway. It unveils a new paradigm at the maternal-foetal interface in which CXCL16 is an initiator for the molecular crosstalk that enhances decidualization of ESCs.

Open access

Beverly G Reed, Samir N Babayev, Lucy X Chen, Bruce R Carr, R Ann Word and Patricia T Jimenez

MicroRNAs (miRs) are small molecules important for regulation of transcription and translation. The objective was to identify hormonally regulated miRs in human endometrial stromal cells and to determine the impact of the endocrine disruptor, bisphenol A (BPA), on those miRs. miR microarray analysis and multiple confirmatory cell preparations treated with 17β-estradiol (E2) and BPA altered miR-27b, let-7c, let-7e and miR-181b. Further, decidualization downregulated miR-27b. VEGFB and VEGFC were validated as targets of miR-27b. Identification of miR-27b target genes suggests that BPA and E2 downregulate miR-27b thereby leading to upregulation of genes important for vascularization and angiogenesis of the endometrium during the menstrual cycle and decidualization.

Open access

Caroline M Allen, Federica Lopes, Rod T Mitchell and Norah Spears

Chemotherapy treatment is a mainstay of anticancer regimens, significantly contributing to the recent increase in childhood cancer survival rates. Conventional cancer therapy targets not only malignant but also healthy cells resulting in side effects including infertility. For prepubertal boys, there are currently no fertility preservation strategies in use, although several potential methods are under investigation. Most of the current knowledge in relation to prepubertal gonadotoxicity has been deduced from adult studies; however, the prepubertal testis is relatively quiescent in comparison to the adult. This review provides an overview of research to date in humans and animals describing chemotherapy-induced prepubertal gonadotoxicity, focusing on direct gonadal damage. Testicular damage is dependent upon the agent, dosage, administration schedule and age/pubertal status at time of treatment. The chemotherapy agents investigated so far target the germ cell population activating apoptotic pathways and may also impair Sertoli cell function. Due to use of combined chemotherapy agents for patients, the impact of individual drugs is hard to define, however, use of in vivo and in vitro animal models can overcome this problem. Furthering our understanding of how chemotherapy agents target the prepubertal testis will provide clarity to patients on the gonadotoxicity of different drugs and aid in the development of cytoprotective agents.

Open access

Sathish Kumar, Geoffrey H Gordon, David H Abbott and Jay S Mishra

Adequate maternal vascular adaptations and blood supply to the uterus and placenta are crucial for optimal oxygen and nutrient transport to growing fetuses of eutherian mammals, including humans. Multiple factors contribute to hemodynamics and structuring of placental vasculature essential for term pregnancy with minimal complications. In women, failure to achieve or sustain favorable pregnancy progression is, not surprisingly, associated with high incidence of antenatal complications, including preeclampsia, a hypertensive disorder of pregnancy. While the pathogenesis of preeclampsia in women remains unknown, a role for androgens is emerging. The relationship between androgens and maternal cardiovascular and placental function deserves particular consideration because testosterone levels in the circulation of preeclamptic women are elevated approximately two- to three-fold and are positively correlated with vascular dysfunction. Preeclampsia is also associated with elevated placental androgen receptor (AR) gene expression. Studies in animal models mimicking the pattern and level of increase of adult female testosterone levels to those found in preeclamptic pregnancies, replicate key features of preeclampsia, including gestational hypertension, endothelial dysfunction, exaggerated vasoconstriction to angiotensin II, reduced spiral artery remodeling, placental hypoxia, decreased nutrient transport and fetal growth restriction. Taken together, these data strongly implicate AR-mediated testosterone action as an important pathway contributing to clinical manifestation of preeclampsia. This review critically addresses this hypothesis, taking into consideration both clinical and preclinical data.

Open access

Jordan E Read, Victoria Cabrera-Sharp, Victoria Offord, Samantha M Mirczuk, Steve P Allen, Robert C Fowkes and Amanda M de Mestre

Equine chorionic girdle trophoblast cells play important endocrine and immune functions critical in supporting pregnancy. Very little is known about the genes and pathways that regulate chorionic girdle trophoblast development. Our aim was to identify genes and signalling pathways active in vivo in equine chorionic girdle trophoblast within a critical 7-days window. We exploited the late implantation of the equine conceptus to obtain trophoblast tissue. An Agilent equine 44K microarray was performed using RNA extracted from chorionic girdle and chorion (control) from equine pregnancy days 27, 30, 31 and 34 (n = 5), corresponding to the initiation of chorionic girdle trophoblast proliferation, differentiation and migration. Data were analysed using R packages limma and maSigPro, Ingenuity Pathway Analysis and DAVID and verified using qRT-PCR, promoter analysis, western blotting and migration assays. Microarray analysis showed gene expression (absolute log FC >2, FDR-adjusted P < 0.05) was rapidly and specifically induced in the chorionic girdle between days 27 and 34 (compared to day 27, day 30 = 116, day 31 = 317, day 34 = 781 genes). Pathway analysis identified 35 pathways modulated during chorionic girdle development (e.g. FGF, integrin, Rho GTPases, MAPK) including pathways that have limited description in mammalian trophoblast (e.g. IL-9, CD40 and CD28 signalling). Rho A and ERK/MAPK activity was confirmed as was a role for transcription factor ELF5 in regulation of the CGB promoter. The purity and accessibility of chorionic girdle trophoblast proved to be a powerful resource to identify candidate genes and pathways involved in early equine placental development.

Open access

Huijuan Liao, Yan Chen, Yulong Li, Shaolong Xue, Mingfeng Liu, Ziyuan Lin, Yanyan Liu, Hsiao Chang Chan, Xiaohu Zhang and Huaqin Sun

Mutations in the cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator (CFTR) gene affect fertility in both sexes. However, the involvement of CFTR in regulating germ cell development remains largely unknown. Here, we used zebrafish model to investigate the role of CFTR in primordial germ cells (PGCs) development. We generated a cftr frameshift mutant zebrafish line using CRISPR/Cas9 technique and investigated the migration of PGCs during early embryo development. Our results showed that loss of Cftr impairs the migration of PGCs from dome stages onward. The migration of PGCs was also perturbed by treatment of CFTRinh-172, a gating-specific CFTR channel inhibitor. Moreover, defected PGCs migration in cftr mutant embryos can be partially rescued by injection of WT but not other channel-defective mutant cftr mRNAs. Finally, we observed the elevation of cxcr4b, cxcl12a, rgs14a and ca15b, key factors involved in zebrafish PGCs migration, in cftr-mutant zebrafish embryos. Taken together, the present study revealed an important role of CFTR acting as an ion channel in regulating PGCs migration during early embryogenesis. Defect of which may impair germ cell development through elevation of key factors involved in cell motility and response to chemotactic gradient in PGCs.

Open access

Christine Faraci, Sofia Annis, Joyce Jin, Housaiyin Li, Konstantin Khrapko and Dori C Woods

The mtDNA ‘mutator’ mouse, also called the ‘POLG’ mouse, is a well-characterized model frequently used for studies of progeroid aging. Harboring a mutation in the proofreading domain of the mitochondrial polymerase, polymerase-γ (Polg), POLG mice acquire mtDNA mutations at an accelerated rate. This results in premature mitochondrial dysfunction and a systemic aging phenotype. Previous work has demonstrated that the progeroid phenotype in POLG is attenuated following endurance exercise, the only reported intervention to extend health span and lifespan of these mice. Herein, oocyte quality was evaluated in sedentary and exercised POLG mice. In mice homozygous for the Polg mutation, litter size is dramatically reduced as compared to heterozygous Polg mice. Following ovarian hyper-stimulation, oocytes were retrieved until 9 months of age in exercised and sedentary groups, with no oocytes ovulated thereafter. Although ovulated oocyte numbers were not impacted by exercise, we did find a modest improvement in both the ovarian follicle reserve and in oocyte quality based on meiotic spindle assembly, chromosomal segregation and mitochondrial distribution at 7 months of age in exercised POLG mice as compared to sedentary counterparts. Of note, analysis of mtDNA mutational load revealed no differences between exercised and sedentary groups. Collectively, these data indicate that exercise differentially influences somatic tissues of the POLG mouse as compared to oocytes, highlighting important mechanistic differences between mitochondrial regulatory mechanisms in the soma and the germline.

Open access

Sara R van Boeckel, Donald J Davidson, Jane E Norman and Sarah J Stock

Inflammation is known to play a key role in preterm and term parturition. Cell-free fetal DNA (cff-DNA) is present in the maternal circulation and increases with gestational age and some pregnancy complications (e.g. preterm birth, preeclampsia). Microbial DNA and adult cell-free DNA can be pro-inflammatory through DNA-sensing mechanisms such as Toll-like receptor 9 and the Stimulator of Interferon Genes (STING) pathway. However, the pro-inflammatory properties of cff-DNA, and the possible effects of this on pregnancy and parturition are unknown. Clinical studies have quantified cff-DNA levels in the maternal circulation in women who deliver preterm and women who deliver at term and show an association between preterm labor and higher cff-DNA levels in the 2nd, 3rd trimester and at onset of preterm birth symptoms. Together with potential pro-inflammatory properties of cff-DNA, this rise suggests a potential mechanistic role in the pathogenesis of spontaneous preterm birth. In this review, we discuss the evidence linking cff-DNA to adverse pregnancy outcomes, including preterm birth, obtained from preclinical and clinical studies.