Heterochromatin is dynamically formed and organized in differentiating male germ cells, and its proper regulation is a prerequisite for normal spermatogenesis. While heterochromatin is generally transcriptionally silent, we have previously shown that major satellite repeat (MSR) DNA in the pericentric heterochromatin (PCH) is transcribed during spermatogenesis. We have also shown that DICER associates with PCH and is involved in the regulation of MSR-derived transcripts. To shed light on the heterochromatin regulation in the male germline, we studied the expression, localization and heterochromatin association of selected testis-enriched chromatin regulators in the mouse testis. Our results show that HELLS, WDHD1 and BAZ1A are dynamically expressed during spermatogenesis. They display limited overlap in expression, suggesting involvement in distinct heterochromatin-associated processes at different steps of differentiation. We also showed that HELLS and BAZ1A interact with DICER and MSR chromatin. Interestingly, deletion of Dicer1 affects the sex chromosome heterochromatin status in late pachytene spermatocytes, as demonstrated by mislocalization of Polycomb protein family member SCML1 to the sex body. These data substantiate the importance of dynamic heterochromatin regulation during spermatogenesis, and emphasize the key role of DICER in the maintenance of chromatin status in meiotic male germ cells.
Ram Prakash Yadav, Sini Leskinen, Lin Ma, Juho-Antti Makela, and Noora Kotaja
Dalileh Nabi, Davide Bosi, Neha Gupta, Nidhi Thaker, Rafael A. Fissore, and Lynae Maria Brayboy
MDR-1 is a transmembrane ATP-dependent effluxer present in organs that transport a variety of xenobiotics and byproducts. Previous findings by our group demonstrated that this transporter is also present in the oocyte mitochondrial membrane and that its mutation led to abnormal mitochondrial homeostasis. Considering the importance of these organelles in the female gamete, we assessed the impact of MDR-1 dysfunction on mouse oocyte quality, with a particular focus on the meiotic spindle organization, aneuploidies, Ca2+ homeostasis, ATP production and mtDNA mutations. Our results demonstrate that young Mdr1 mutant mice produce oocytes characterized by lower quality, with a significant delay in the germinal vesicle (GV) to germinal vesicle breakdown (GVBD) transition, an increased percentage of symmetric divisions, chromosome mis-alignments and a severely altered meiotic spindle shape compared to the wild types. Mutant oocytes exhibit 7000 more single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in the exomic DNA and twice the amount of mitochondrial DNA SNPs compared to the wild-type ones. Ca2+ analysis revealed the inability of MDR-1 mutant oocytes to manage Ca2+ storage content and oscillations in response to several stimuli and ATP quantification shows that mutant oocytes trend towards lower ATP levels compared to wild types. Finally, 1-year-old mutant ovaries express a lower amount of Sirt1, Sirt3, Sirt5, Sirt6 and Sirt7 compared to wild type levels. These results, together emphasize the importance of MDR-1 in mitochondrial physiology and highlight the influence of MDR-1 on oocyte quality and ovarian aging.
Min Diao, Jin Zhou, Yunkai Tao, Zhaoyang Hu, and Xuemei Lin
Various etiologies can cause uterine myometrium contraction, which leads to preterm birth. This study demonstrates a new functional relationship between the Ras-related C3 botulinum toxin substrate 1 (RAC1) and uterine myometrium contraction in preterm birth.
Preterm birth (PTB) is a public health issue. The World Health Organization has recommended the use of tocolytic treatment to inhibit preterm labour and improve pregnancy outcomes. Intrauterine inflammation is associated with preterm birth. RAC1 can modulate inflammation in different experimental settings. In the current study, we explored whether RAC1 can modulate spontaneous uterine myometrium contraction in a mouse model of lipopolysaccharide (LPS)-induced intrauterine inflammation. Subsequently, we recorded uterine myometrium contraction and examined uterine Rac1 expression in a mouse model of preterm birth and a case in pregnant women by Western blotting analysis. We also measured progesterone levels in the blood serum of mice. Murine myometrium was obtained 12 h post LPS treatment. Human myometrium was obtained at the time of caesarean section. We found that in the LPS-treated group of mice, uterine myometrium contraction was enhanced, protein levels and activation of RAC1 were increased and serum progesterone levels were decreased. The protein levels of RAC1 were also increased in preterm birth and in pregnant women. NSC23766, a RAC1 inhibitor, attenuated uterine myometrium contraction and diminished RAC1 activation and COX-2 expression. Furthermore, silencing of RAC1 suppressed cell contraction and COX-2 expression in vitro. In conclusion, our results suggested that RAC1 may play an important role in modulating uterine myometrium contraction. Consequently, intervening with RAC1 represents a novel strategy for the treatment of preterm birth.
Limor Man, Nicole Lustgarten Guahmich, Eleni Kallinos, Laura Park, Richard Bodine, Nikiva Zaninovic, Glenn Schattman, Zev Rosenwaks, and Daylon James
More than 200 live births have been achieved using auto-transplantation of cryopreserved ovarian cortical fragments, yet challenges remain to be addressed. Ischemia of grafted tissue undermines viability and longevity, typically requiring transplantation of multiple cortical pieces; and the dynamics of recruitment within a graft and the influence of parameters like size and patient age at the time of cryopreservation are not well-defined. Here, we describe results from a series of experiments in which we xenografted frozen-thawed human ovarian tissue (n = 440) from 28 girls and women (age range 32 weeks gestational age to 46 years, median 24.3±4.6). Xenografts were recovered across a broad range of intervals (1 to 52 weeks post-transplantation) and examined histologically to quantify follicle density and distribution. The number of antral follicles in xenografted cortical fragments correlated positively with total follicle number and was significantly reduced with increased patient age. Within xenografts, follicles were distributed in focal clusters, similar to the native ovary, but the presence of a leading antral follicle coincided with increased proliferation of surrounding follicles. These results underscore the importance of transplanting ovarian tissue with a high density of follicles and elucidate a potential paracrine influence of leading antral follicles on neighboring follicles of earlier stages. This temporal framework for interpreting the kinetics of follicle growth/mobilization may be useful in setting expectations and guiding the parameters of clinical auto-transplantation.
Yu-Ying Chen, Daniela D Russo, Riley S Drake, Francesca E Duncan, Alex K Shalek, Brittany A Goods, and Teresa K Woodruff
Proper development of ovarian follicles, comprised of an oocyte and surrounding somatic cells, is essential to support female fertility and endocrine health. Here, we describe a method to isolate single oocytes and somatic cells from the earliest stage follicles, called primordial follicles, and we characterize signals that drive their activation.
Primordial follicles are the first class of follicles formed in the mammalian ovary and are comprised of an oocyte surrounded by a layer of squamous pre-granulosa cells. This developmental class remains in a non-growing state until individual follicles activate to initiate folliculogenesis. What regulates the timing of follicle activation and the upstream signals that govern these processes are major unanswered questions in ovarian biology. This is partly due to the paucity of data on staged follicle cells since isolating and manipulating individual oocytes and somatic cells from early follicle stages are challenging. To date, most studies on isolated primordial follicles have been conducted on cells collected from animal-age- or oocyte size-specific samples, which encompass multiple follicular stages. Here, we report a method for collecting primordial follicles and their associated oocytes and somatic cells from neonatal murine ovaries using liberase, DNase I, and Accutase. This methodology allows for the identification and collection of follicles immediately post-activation enabling unprecedented interrogation of the primordial-to-primary follicle transition. Molecular profiling by single-cell RNA sequencing revealed that processes including organelle disassembly and cadherin binding were enriched in oocytes and somatic cells as they transitioned from primordial to the primary follicle stage. Furthermore, targets including WNT4, TGFB1, FOXO3, and a network of transcription factors were identified in the transitioning oocytes and somatic cells as potential upstream regulators that collectively may drive follicle activation. Taken together, we have developed a more precise characterization and selection method for studying staged-follicle cells, revealing several novel regulators of early folliculogenesis.
C Jones, X Meng, and K Coward
Oocyte activation deficiency (OAD) remains the predominant cause of total/low fertilization rate in assisted reproductive technology. Phospholipase C zeta (PLCZ1) is the dominant sperm-specific factor responsible for triggering oocyte activation in mammals. OAD has been linked to numerous PLCZ1 abnormalities in patients experiencing failed in vitro fertilization or intracytoplasmic sperm injection cycles. While significant efforts have enhanced our understanding of the clinical relevance of PLCZ1, and the potential effects of genetic variants upon functionality, our ability to apply PLCZ1 in a diagnostic or therapeutic role remains limited. Artificial oocyte activation is the only option for patients experiencing OAD but lacks a reliable diagnostic approach. Immunofluorescence analysis has revealed that the levels and localization patterns of PLCZ1 within sperm can help us to indirectly diagnose a patient’s ability to induce oocyte activation. Screening of the gene encoding PLCZ1 protein is also critical if we are to fully determine the extent to which genetic factors might play a role in the aberrant expression and/or localization patterns observed in infertile patients. Collectively, these findings highlight the clinical potential of PLCZ1, both as a prognostic indicator of OAD and eventually as a therapeutic agent. In this review, we focus on our understanding of the association between OAD and PLCZ1 by discussing the localization and expression of this key protein in human sperm, the potential genetic causes of OAD, and the diagnostic tools that are currently available to us to identify PLCZ1 deficiency and select patients that would benefit from targeted therapy.
Nick Warr, Pam Siggers, Joel May, Nicolas Chalon, Madeleine Pope, Sara Wells, Marie-Christine Chaboissier, and Andy Greenfield
Sex determination in mammals is controlled by the dominance of either pro-testis (SRY-SOX9-FGF9) or pro-ovary (RSPO1-WNT4-FOXL2) genetic pathways during early gonad development in XY and XX embryos, respectively. We have previously shown that early, robust expression of mouse Sry is dependent on the nuclear protein GADD45g. In the absence of GADD45g, XY gonadal sex reversal occurs, associated with a major reduction of Sry levels at 11.5 dpc. Here, we probe the relationship between Gadd45g and Sry further, using gain- and loss-of-function genetics. First, we show that transgenic Gadd45g overexpression can elevate Sry expression levels at 11.5 dpc in the B6.YPOS model of sex reversal, resulting in phenotypic rescue. We then show that the zygosity of pro-ovarian Rspo1 is critical for the degree of gonadal sex reversal observed in both B6.YPOS and Gadd45g-deficient XY gonads, in contrast to that of Foxl2. Phenotypic rescue of sex reversal is observed in XY gonads lacking both Gadd45g and Rspo1, but this is not associated with rescue of Sry expression levels at 11.5 dpc. Instead, Sox9 levels are rescued by around 12.5 dpc. We conclude that Gadd45g is absolutely required for timely expression of Sry in XY gonads, independently of RSPO1-mediated WNT signalling, and discuss these data in light of our understanding of antagonistic interactions between the pro-testis and pro-ovary pathways.
Ludmila Volozonoka, Anna Miskova, Liene Kornejeva, Inga Kempa, Veronika Bargatina, and Linda Gailite
Genetic testing is becoming increasingly required at almost every stage of failed female reproduction/infertility. Nonetheless, clinical evidence for the majority of identified gene–disease relationships is ill-defined, thus leading to difficult gene variant interpretation and poor translation of existing knowledge into clinics. We aimed to identify the genes that have ever been implicated in monogenic female reproductive failure in humans and to classify the identified gene–disease relationship pairs using a standardized clinical validity assessment. A PubMed search following PRISMA guidelines was conducted on 20 September 2021 aiming to identify studies pertaining to genetic causes of phenotypes of female reproductive failure. The clinical validity of identified gene–disease pairs was assessed using standardized criteria, counting whether sufficient genetic and experimental evidence has been accumulated to consider a single gene ‘characterized’ for a single Mendelian disease. In total, 1256 articles were selected for the data extraction; 183 unique gene–disease pairs were classified spanning the following phenotypes: hypogonadotropic hypogonadism, ovarian dysgenesis, premature ovarian failure/insufficiency, ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome, empty follicle syndrome, oocyte maturation defect, fertilization failure, early embryonic arrest, recurrent hydatidiform mole, adrenal disfunction and Mullerian aplasia. Twenty-four gene–disease pairs showed definitive evidence, 36 – strong, 19 – moderate, 81 – limited and 23 – showed no evidence. Here, we provide comprehensive, systematic and timely information on the genetic causes of female infertility. Our classification of genetic causes of female reproductive failure will facilitate the composition of up-to-date guidelines on genetic testing in female reproduction, the development of diagnostic gene panels and the advancement of reproductive decision-making.
Tabinda Sidrat, Abdul Aziz Khan, Myeong-Don Joo, Lianguang Xu, Marwa El-Sheikh, Jong-Hyuk Ko, and Il-Keun Kong
Cryopreservation is a process in which the intact living cells, tissues, or embryos are preserved at subzero temperatures for preservation. The cryopreservation process highly impacts the survival and quality of the in vitro-produced (IVP) embryos. Some studies have highlighted the use of oviduct extracellular vesicles (EVs) to improve the cryotolerance of IVP embryos but the mechanism has not been well studied. The present study unravels the role of in vitro cultured bovine oviduct epithelial cells-derived EVs in improving the re-expansion and hatching potential of thawed blastocysts (BLs). The comparison of cryotolerance between synthetic oviduct fluid (SOF) and SOF + EVs-supplemented day-7 cryopreserved BLs revealed that the embryo’s ability to re-expand critically depends on the intact paracellular sealing which facilitates increased fluid accumulation during cavity expansion after shrinkage. Our results demonstrated that BLs cultured in the SOF + EVs group had remarkably higher re-expansion (67.5 ± 4.2%) and hatching rate (84.8 ± 1.4%) compared to the SOF group (53.4 ± 3.4% and 63.9 ± 0.9%, respectively). Interestingly, EVs-supplemented BLs exhibited greater influence on the expression of core genes involved in trophectoderm (TE) maintenance, formation of tight junction (TJ) assembly, H2O channel proteins (aquaporins), and Na+/K+ ATPase alpha 1. The EVs improved the fluid flux and allowed the transport of H2O into an actively re-expanded cavity in EVs-cultured cryo-survived BLs relative to control BLs. Our findings explored the function of EVs in restoring the TE integrity, improved the cell junctional contacts and H2O movement which helps the blastocoel re-expansion after thawing the cryopreserved BLs.