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Yu Du, Zhibing Zhang, Wenqian Xiong, Na Li, Hengwei Liu, Haitang He, Qi Li, Yi Liu and Ling Zhang

Endometriosis is an estrogen-dependent benign gynecological disease that shares some common features of malignancy. Epithelial–mesenchymal transition (EMT) has been recognized as a core mechanism of endometriosis. MALAT1 is widely known as EMT promoter, while miR200 family members (miR200s) are considered as EMT inhibitors. Previous studies have reported that MALAT1 upregulation and miR200s downregulation are observed in endometriosis. MiR200c has been regarded as the strongest member of miR200s to interact with MALAT1. However, whether MALAT1/miR200c regulates EMT remains largely unclear. In this study, the roles of miR200s and MALAT1 in ectopic endometrium were investigated. Additionally, the effects of E2 on EMT and MALAT1/miR200s were examined in both EECs and Ishikawa cells. Notably, E2 could upregulate MALAT1 and downregulate miR200s expression levels and induce EMT in EECs and Ishikawa cells. PHTPP, an ERβ antagonist, could reverse the effect of E2. Overexpression of miR200c and knockdown of MALAT1 significantly inhibited E2-mediated EMT, suggesting that both miR200c and MALAT1 are involved in the E2-induced EMT process in endometriosis. In addition, a reciprocal inhibition was found between miR200s and MALAT1. Therefore, the role of MALAT1/miR200c in EMT is influenced by the presence of estrogen during endometriosis development.

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.

Free access

Tomer Avidor-Reiss and Emily L Fishman

Cells that divide during embryo development require precisely two centrioles during interphase and four centrioles during mitosis. This precise number is maintained by allowing each centriole to nucleate only one centriole per cell cycle (i.e. centriole duplication). Yet, how the first cell of the embryo, the zygote, obtains two centrioles has remained a mystery in most mammals and insects. The mystery arose because the female gamete (oocyte) is thought to have no functional centrioles and the male gamete (spermatozoon) is thought to have only one functional centriole, resulting in a zygote with a single centriole. However, recent studies in fruit flies, beetles and mammals, including humans, suggest an alternative explanation: spermatozoa have a typical centriole and an atypical centriole. The sperm typical centriole has a normal structure but distinct protein composition, whereas the sperm atypical centriole is distinct in both. During fertilization, the atypical centriole is released into the zygote, nucleates a new centriole and participates in spindle pole formation. Thus, the spermatozoa’s atypical centriole acts as a second centriole in the zygote. Here, we review centriole biology in general and especially in reproduction, we describe the discovery of the spermatozoon atypical centriole, and we provide an updated model for centriole inherence during sexual reproduction. While we focus on humans and other non-rodent mammals, we also provide a broader evolutionary perspective.

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Songcun Wang, Fengrun Sun, Mutian Han, Yinghua Liu, Qinyan Zou, Fuxin Wang, Yu Tao, Dajin Li, Meirong Du, Hong Li and Rui Zhu

There is delicate crosstalk between fetus-derived trophoblasts (Tros) and maternal cells during normal pregnancy. Dysfunctions in interaction are highly linked to some pregnancy complications, such as recurrent spontaneous abortion (RSA), pre-eclampsia and fetal growth restriction. Hyaluronan (HA), the most abundant component of extracellular matrix, has been reported to act as both a pro- and an anti-inflammatory molecule. Previously, we reported that HA promotes the invasion and proliferation of Tros by activating PI3K/Akt and MAPK/ERK1/2 signaling pathways. While lower HA secretion by Tros was observed during miscarriages than that during normal pregnancies, in the present study, we further confirmed that higher secretion of HA by Tros could induce M2 polarization of macrophages at the maternal–fetal interface by interacting with CD44 and activating the downstream PI3K/Akt-STAT-3/STAT-6 signaling pathways. Furthermore, HA could restore the production of IL-10 and other normal pregnancy markers by decidual macrophages (dMφs) from RSA. These findings underline the important roles of HA in regulating the function of dMφs and maintaining a normal pregnancy.

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.

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Katarzyna Joanna Szymańska, Nerea Ortiz-Escribano, Etienne Van den Abbeel, Ann Van Soom and Luc Leybaert

Vitrification of immature germinal vesicle-stage oocytes is a promising method in assisted reproduction but is associated with reduced developmental potential and low birth rates. Cumulus-oocyte complexes (COCs) express several connexins that form hexameric hemichannels, which interact head to head to create a gap junction or exist as unopposed free hemichannels. The latter are normally closed but open under stress conditions and may exert detrimental effects. We determined whether minimizing hemichannel opening and cell death during vitrification could improve COC quality. Bovine immature COCs underwent vitrification, storage and warming, followed by dye uptake to assess hemichannel opening and TUNEL staining to detect cell death. Based on these scores, we optimized the procedure by tuning the equilibration time, temperature, cryoprotectant concentration and extracellular Ca2+ concentration and assessed its impact on maturation, cleavage and blastocyst formation after parthenogenetic activation. We found that the major stressor resides in the cooling/warming phase of the vitrification procedure and observed that hemichannel opening and cell death in cumulus cells measure different aspects of cell stress. Optimization of the hemichannel and cell death readouts demonstrated that combined minimal hemichannel opening/cell death gave the highest cleavage rates but had no effect on maturation and blastocyst formation. Neither hemichannel nor cell death optimization performed better than the non-optimized protocol, leading to the conclusion that cell stress factors other than those detected by hemichannel dye uptake or TUNEL positivity are involved.

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.

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Yu Chen, Hongshi Yu, Andrew J Pask, Asao Fujiyama, Yutaka Suzuki, Sumio Sugano, Geoff Shaw and Marilyn B Renfree

The development of the mammalian phallus involves hormone-dependent mesenchymal–epithelial signalling mechanisms that contribute to urethral closure and regulation of phallus elongation and growth. In marsupials, most differentiation and growth of the phallus occurs post-natally, making them amenable to direct hormone treatment. Expression of IGFs, FGFs, EFNB2, MAFB, DLX5 and AP-1 mRNAs in the phallus at day 50 post-partum (pp) were altered after treatment of tammar wallaby young from day 20 to 40 pp with androgen, oestrogen or after castration at day 25 pp. However, the most interesting changes occurred in the IGF pathway genes. Androgen treatment upregulated IGF1 in female phalluses and oestrogen treatment upregulated IGF1 in male phalluses, but it was downregulated by castration. IGFBP3 was higher in female phalluses and downregulated by androgen. IGF1 expression was higher in all untreated male than in female phalluses from day 50 to 150 pp, but IGFBP3 had the reverse pattern. At day 90 pp, when urethral closure in males is progressing and male phallus growth is accelerating. IGF1 and PCNA protein were only detected in the male urorectal septum, suggesting for the first time that closure and elongation may involve IGF1 activation of cell proliferation specifically in male phalluses. These effects of sex steroids on gene expression and on the IGF1 signalling pathway in particular, suggest that the developing phallus may be especially susceptible to perturbation by exogenous hormones.

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K Herzog, L Debertolis, J P Kastelic, M Schmicke, S E Ulbrich and H Bollwein

The objective was to characterize effects of Escherichia coli LPS (given i.v.) on corpus luteum (CL) and embryonic viability in early pregnant cattle. Eight non-lactating German Holstein cows were given 0.5 µg/kg LPS on 35 ± 3 day (mean ± s.e.m.) of pregnancy, whereas seven heifers, 41 ± 6 day pregnant, were given 10 mL saline (control group). Transrectal B-mode examinations of the CL were done at −1, 3, 6, 12, 24, 48, 72 and 96 h relative to treatment. Blood samples were collected at −1, 0.5, 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 9, 12, 24, 48, 72 and 96 h. At 12 and 48 h, the CL was biopsied. None of the cows still in the experiment 10 day after LPS (n = 7) had embryonic loss. In LPS-treated cows, luteal area decreased (from 4.1 to 3.1 cm2; P ≤ 0.05) within 6 h and until 48 h. Luteal blood flow decreased by 39% (P ≤ 0.05) within the first 6 h after LPS, but returned to pre-treatment values by 48 h. Plasma P4 decreased by 62% (P ≤ 0.05), reached a nadir (2.7 ± 0.6 ng/mL) at 12 h after LPS and was not restored to pre-treatment (P ≤ 0.05). In luteal tissue, mRNAs for STAR and for FGF1 were lower (P ≤ 0.05) in LPS than in saline-treated cattle at 12 h, with no difference between groups at 48 h. Levels of mRNAs for CASP3 and FGF2 were not different between groups (P > 0.05) at 12 or 48 h after treatment. In conclusion, LPS transiently suppressed CL function, but did not induce embryonic mortality.