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Matteo Duque Rodriguez, Andrés Gambini, Laura D Ratner, Adrian J Sestelo, Olinda Briski, Cynthia Gutnisky, Susana B Rulli, Rafael Fernández Martin, Pablo Cetica, and Daniel F Salamone

Heterospecific embryo transfer of an endangered species has been carried out using recipients from related domestic females. Aggregation of an embryo from an endangered species with a tetraploid embryo from the species to be transferred could improve the development of pregnancy to term. The main objective of the present study was to analyze embryo aggregation in domestic cat model using hybrid embryos. For this purpose, we compared in vitro development of synchronic (Sync) or asynchronic (Async) and asynchronic with a tetraploid (Async4n) aggregation of domestic cat IVF embryos. Furthermore, aggregated blastocyst quality was analyzed by evaluation of the total cell number, cell allocation by mitotrackers staining of embryonic cells, expression of Oct4, Nanog, Sox2, Cdx2 genes, number of OCT4+ nuclei, and presence of DNA fragmentation. Additionally, the developmental rates of Async4n aggregation of domestic cat with Leopardus geoffroyi hybrid (hLg) embryos were evaluated. Async aggregation increased blastocyst cell number and the number of OCT4+ nuclei as compared to non-aggregated diploid (2n) and tetraploid (4n) embryos. Moreover, blastocysts produced by Async4n aggregation showed reduced rates of fragmented DNA. No differences were found in the expression of the pluripotent genes, with exception of the Cdx2 expression, which was higher in 4n and aggregated embryos as compared to the control group. Interestingly, hybrids embryos derived by Async4n aggregation with domestic cat embryos had similar rates of blastocysts development as the control. Altogether, the findings support the use of two-cell-fused embryos to generate tetraploid blastomeres and demonstrate that Async4n aggregation generates good quality embryos.

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Yufei Wang, Haoya Chang, Qifu He, Yaxing Xue, Kang Zhang, Jian Kang, Ying Wang, Zhiming Xu, Yong Zhang, and Fusheng Quan

Oocyte vitrification has significantly improved the survival rate and become the mainstream method for cryopreserving oocytes. Previous studies have demonstrated that the ultrastructure, mitochondrial function, DNA methylation, and histone modification exhibit an irreversible effect after oocyte vitrification. However, little is known about the effects of oocyte vitrification on glucose transport and metabolism. This study aims to determine whether mouse oocyte vitrification causes abnormal glucose metabolism and identify a strategy to correct abnormal glucose metabolism. Furthermore, this study further investigates the effects of oocyte vitrification on glucose uptake, and glucose metabolism, and energy levels. The results indicated that vitrification significantly reduced the glucose transport activity, NADPH, glutathione, and ATP levels, and increased reactive oxygen species levels in oocytes (P  < 0.01). Vitrification also reduced the expression of glucose transporter isoform 1 (GLUT1) (P  < 0.01). Adding a GLUT1 inhibitor reduced the glucose uptake capacity of oocytes. Furthermore, the inclusion of vitamin C into thawing and culture solutions restored abnormal glucose transportation and metabolism and improved the survival, two-cell embryo, and blastocyst rates of the vitrified groups via parthenogenesis (P  < 0.05). Overall, this method may improve the quality and efficiency of oocyte vitrification.

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Michala Rosa Birch, Steen Dissing, Niels E Skakkebæk, and Anders Rehfeld

Ca2+ signalling controls human sperm functions necessary for successful fertilization. Multiple endocrine-disrupting chemicals have been found to activate the CatSper Ca2+ channel and thereby interfering with Ca2+ signalling in human sperm. Finasteride is prescribed to men in the fertile age to treat hair loss and its use has been associated with impaired male fertility. Due to the structural relatedness of finasteride to the endogenous CatSper ligand progesterone, this study aimed to investigate whether finasteride affects human sperm in a progestogen-like manner. The effect of finasteride on Ca2+ signalling via CatSper in human sperm was investigated in cell suspensions by single-cell imaging. Additionally, effects on sperm penetration into viscous medium and acrosome reaction were assessed. Finasteride alone caused a minor transient rise in the intracellular, free Ca2+ concentration ([Ca2+]i) at physiologically relevant concentrations. Ca2+ signals induced by PGE1 were inhibited by finasteride displaying mixed type of inhibition consistent with multiple binding sites. Finasteride did not interfere with progesterone-induced Ca2+ signalling and no effect on acrosome reaction or sperm viability was found. Finasteride significantly decreased PGE1-induced penetration into viscous medium but in concentrations above what is measured in blood and seminal fluids during regular finasteride administration. In conclusion, the use of finasteride may affect Ca2+ signalling in human sperm through an interaction with the PGE1-binding site, but to which extend it alters the chances of a successful fertilization needs further investigation. It remains to be investigated whether finasteride administration may give rise to side effects by interfering with prostaglandin signalling elsewhere in the human body.

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Luiz Cordeiro, Hsiu-Lien Herbie Lin, Anaïs Vitorino Carvalho, Isabelle Grasseau, Rustem Uzbekov, and Elisabeth Blesbois

Male subfertility causes are very varied and sometimes related to post-gonadic maturation disruption, involving seminal plasma constituents. Among them, extracellular vesicles are involved in key exchanges with sperm in mammals. However, in birds, the existence of seminal extracellular vesicles is still debated. The aim of the present work was first to clarify the putative presence of extracellular vesicles in the seminal plasma of chickens, secondly to characterize their size and protein markers in animals showing different fertility, and finally to make preliminary evaluations of their interactions with sperm. We successfully isolated extracellular vesicles from seminal plasma of males showing the highest differences in semen quality and fertility by using ultracentrifugation protocol (pool of 3 ejaculates/rooster, n =3/condition). Size characterization performed by electron microscopy revealed a high proportion of small extracellular vesicles (probably exosomes) in chicken seminal plasma. Smaller extracellular vesicles appeared more abundant in fertile than in subfertile roosters, with a mean diameter of 65.12 and 77.18 nm, respectively. Different protein markers of extracellular vesicles were found by western blotting (n = 6/condition). Among them, HSP90A was significantly more abundant in fertile than in subfertile males. In co-incubation experiments (n = 3/condition), extracellular vesicles enriched seminal fractions of fertile males showed a higher capacity to be incorporated into fertile than into subfertile sperm. Sperm viability and motility were impacted by the presence of extracellular vesicles from fertile males. In conclusion, we successfully demonstrated the presence of extracellular vesicles in chicken seminal plasma, with differential size, protein markers and putative incorporation capacity according to male fertility status.

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Yoshiteru Kai, Hiroomi Kawano, and Naoki Yamashita

Unlike in mice, multinucleated blastomeres appear at a high frequency in the two-cell-stage embryos in humans. In this Point of View article, we demonstrate that the first mitotic spindle formation led by sperm centrosome-dependent microtubule organizing centers may cause a high incidence of zygotic division errors using human tripronuclear zygotes.

Open access

Konstantina Nikolakopoulou and Margherita Y Turco

Infertility is a common problem in modern societies with significant socio-psychological implications for women. Therapeutic interventions are often needed which, depending on the cause, can either be medical treatment, surgical procedures or assisted reproductive technology (ART). However, the treatment of infertility is not always successful due to our limited understanding of the preparation of the lining of the uterus, the endometrium, for pregnancy. The endometrium is of central importance for successful reproduction as it is the site of placental implantation providing the interface between the mother and her baby. Due to the dynamic, structural and functional changes the endometrium undergoes throughout the menstrual cycle, it is challenging to study. A major advancement is the establishment of 3D organoid models of the human endometrium to study this dynamic tissue in health and disease. In this review, we describe the changes that the human endometrium undergoes through the different phases of the menstrual cycle in preparation for pregnancy. We discuss defects in the processes of endometrial repair, decidualization and acquisition of receptivity that are associated with infertility. Organoids could be utilized to investigate the underlying cellular and molecular mechanisms occurring in non-pregnant endometrium and early pregnancy. These studies may lead to therapeutic applications that could transform the treatment of reproductive failure.

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Shi-Yu An, Zi-Fei Liu, El-Samahy M A, Ming-Tian Deng, Xiao-Xiao Gao, Ya-Xu Liang, Chen-Bo Shi, Zhi-Hai Lei, Feng Wang, and Guo-Min Zhang

Long ncRNAs regulate a complex array of fundamental biological processes, while its molecular regulatory mechanism in Leydig cells (LCs) remains unclear. In the present study, we established the lncRNA LOC102176306/miR-1197-3p/peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor gamma coactivator 1 alpha (PPARGC1A) regulatory network by bioinformatic prediction, and investigated its roles in goat LCs. We found that lncRNA LOC102176306 could efficiently bind to miR-1197-3p and regulate PPARGC1A expression in goat LCs. Downregulation of lncRNA LOC102176306 significantly supressed testosterone (T) synthesis and ATP production, decreased the activities of antioxidant enzymes and mitochondrial complex I and complex III, caused the loss of mitochondrial membrane potential, and inhibited the proliferation of goat LCs by decreasing PPARGC1A expression, while these effects could be restored by miR-1197-3p inhibitor treatment. In addition, miR-1197-3p mimics treatment significantly alleviated the positive effects of lncRNA LOC102176306 overexpression on T and ATP production, antioxidant capacity and proliferation of goat LCs. Taken together, lncRNA LOC102176306 functioned as a sponge for miR-1197-3p to maintain PPARGC1A expression, thereby affecting the steroidogenesis, cell proliferation and oxidative stress of goat LCs. These findings extend our understanding of the molecular mechanisms of T synthesis, cell proliferation and oxidative stress of LCs.

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Anthony D Horlock, Thomas J R Ormsby, Martin J D Clift, José E P Santos, John J Bromfield, and I Martin Sheldon

Bovine granulosa cells are often exposed to energy stress, due to the energy demands of lactation, and exposed to lipopolysaccharide from postpartum bacterial infections. Granulosa cells mount innate immune responses to lipopolysaccharide, including the phosphorylation of mitogen-activated protein kinases and production of pro-inflammatory interleukins. Cellular energy depends on glycolysis, and energy stress activates intracellular AMPK (AMP-activated protein kinase), which in turn inhibits mTOR (mechanistic target of rapamycin). Here, we tested the hypothesis that manipulating glycolysis, AMPK or mTOR to mimic energy stress in bovine granulosa cells limits the inflammatory responses to lipopolysaccharide. We inhibited glycolysis, activated AMPK or inhibited mTOR in granulosa cells isolated from 4–8mm and from > 8.5 mm diameter ovarian follicles, and then challenged the cells with lipopolysaccharide and measured the production of interleukins IL-1α, IL-1β, and IL-8. We found that inhibiting glycolysis with 2-deoxy-d-glucose reduced lipopolysaccharide-stimulated IL-1α > 80%, IL-1β > 90%, and IL-8 > 65% in granulosa cells from 4–8 mm and from > 8.5 mm diameter ovarian follicles. Activating AMPK with AICAR also reduced lipopolysaccharide-stimulated IL-1α > 60%, IL-1β > 75%, and IL-8 > 20%, and shortened the duration of lipopolysaccharide-stimulated phosphorylation of the mitogen-activated protein kinase ERK1/2 and JNK. However, only the mTOR inhibitor Torin 1, and not rapamycin, reduced lipopolysaccharide-stimulated IL-1α and IL-1β. In conclusion, manipulating granulosa cell energy metabolism with a glycolysis inhibitor, an AMPK activator, or an mTOR inhibitor, limited inflammatory responses to lipopolysaccharide. Our findings imply that energy stress compromises ovarian follicle immune defences.

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Carolina Marvaldi, Daniel Martin, Julia G Conte, María Florencia Gottardo, Matías L Pidre, Mercedes Imsen, Martin Irizarri, Sharron L Manuel, Francesca E Duncan, Víctor Romanowski, Adriana Seilicovich, and Gabriela Jaita

Humanin (HN) is a short peptide involved in many biological processes such as apoptosis, cell survival, inflammatory response, and reaction to stressors like oxidative stress, between others. In the ovary, a correct balance between pro- and anti-apoptotic factors is crucial for folliculogenesis. In the follicular atresia, survival or death of granulosa cells is a critical process. The goal of this study was to evaluate the action of HN on granulosa cell fate. To explore endogenous HN function in the ovary, we used a recombinant baculovirus (BV) encoding a short-hairpin RNA targeted to silence HN (shHN). HN downregulation modified ovarian histoarchitecture and increased apoptosis of granulosa cells. HN was also detected in a granulosa tumor cell line (KGN). Transduction of KGN cells with BV-shHN resulted in HN downregulation and increased apoptosis. On the other hand, treatment of KGN cells with exogenous HN increased cell viability and decreased apoptosis. In summary, these findings indicate that HN is a cytoprotective factor in granulosa cells of antral follicles, suggesting that this peptide would be involved in the regulation of folliculogenesis. Also, this peptide is a cytoprotective factor in KGN cells, and therefore, it could be involved in granulosa tumor cell behavior.

Open access

Xiao Han, Cong Zhang, Xiangping Ma, Xiaowei Yan, Bohui Xiong, Wei Shen, Shen Yin, Hongfu Zhang, Qing-Yuan Sun, and Yong Zhao

Muscarinic acetylcholine receptor (mAChR) antagonists have been reported to decrease male fertility, however the roles of mAChRs in spermatogenesis and the underlying mechanisms are not understood yet. During spermatogenesis, extensive remodeling between Sertoli cells and/or germ cells interfaces takes place to accommodate the transport of developing germ cells across the blood-testis barrier (BTB) and adluminal compartment. The cell-cell junctions play vital role in the spermatogenesis process. This study used ICR male mice and spermatogonial cells (C18-4) and Sertoli cells (TM-4). shRNA of control or M5 gene was injected into 5-week-age ICR mice testes. Ten days post viral grafting, mice were deeply anesthetized with pentobarbital and the testes were collected. One testicle was fresh frozen for RNA-seq analysis or Western blotting (WB). The second testicle was fixed for immunofluorescence staining (IHF). C18-4 or TM-4 cells were treated with shRNA of control or M5 gene. Then the cells were collected for RNA-seq analysis, WB, or IHF. Knockdown of mAChR M5 disrupted mouse spermatogenesis and damaged the actin-based cytoskeleton and many types of junction proteins in both Sertoli cells and germ cells. M5 knockdown decreased Phldb2 expression in both germ cells and Sertoli cells which suggested that Phldb2 may be involved in cytoskeleton and cell-cell junction formation to regulate spermatogenesis. Our investigation has elucidated a novel role for mAChR M5 in the regulation of spermatogenesis through the interactions of Phldb2 and cell-cell junctions. M5 may be an attractive future therapeutic target in the treatment of male reproductive disorders.