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Teruhito Ishihara, Oliver W Griffith, Gerard A Tarulli, and Marilyn B Renfree

Male germ cells undergo two consecutive processes – pre-spermatogenesis and spermatogenesis – to generate mature sperm. In eutherian mammals, epigenetic information such as DNA methylation is dynamically reprogrammed during pre-spermatogenesis, before and during mitotic arrest. In mice, by the time germ cells resume mitosis, the majority of DNA methylation is reprogrammed. The tammar wallaby has a similar pattern of germ cell global DNA methylation reprogramming to that of the mouse during early pre-spermatogenesis. However, early male germline development in the tammar or in any marsupial has not been described previously, so it is unknown whether this is a general feature regulating male germline development or a more recent phenomenon in mammalian evolutionary history. To answer this, we examined germ cell nuclear morphology and mitotic arrest during male germline development in the tammar wallaby (Macropus eugenii), a marsupial that diverged from mice and humans around 160 million years ago. Tammar pro-spermatogonia proliferated after birth and entered mitotic arrest after day 30 postpartum (pp). At this time, they began moving towards the periphery of the testis cords and their nuclear size increased. Germ cells increased in number after day 100 pp which is the time that DNA methylation is known to be re-established in the tammar. This is similar to the pattern observed in the mouse, suggesting that resumption of germ cell mitosis and the timing of DNA methylation reprogramming are correlated and conserved across mammals and over long evolutionary timescales.

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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, Victor 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 such as 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 down-regulation 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 down-regulation 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.

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Zhiyong Zou, Karen Forbes, Lynda K Harris, and Alexander E P Heazell

Normal placental development and function is of key importance to fetal growth. Conversely aberrations of placental structure and function are evident in pregnancy complications including fetal growth restriction (FGR) and preeclampsia. Although trophoblast turnover and function is altered in these conditions, their underlying aetiologies and pathophysiology remains unclear, which hampers development of therapeutic interventions. Here we review evidence that supports a role for estrogen related receptor-gamma (ESRRG) in the development of placental dysfunction in FGR and preeclampsia. This relationship deserves particular consideration because ESRRG is highly expressed in normal placenta, is reduced in FGR and preeclampsia and its expression is altered by hypoxia, which is thought to result from deficient placentation seen in FGR and preeclampsia. Several studies have also found microRNA (miRNA) or other potential upstream regulators of ESRRG negatively influence trophoblast function which could contribute to placental dysfunction seen in FGR and preeclampsia. Interestingly, miRNAs regulate ESRRG expression in human trophoblast. Thus, if ESRRG is pivotally associated with the abnormal trophoblast turnover and function it may be targeted by microRNAs or other possible upstream regulators in the placenta. This review explores altered expression of ESRRG and upstream regulation of ESRRG-mediated pathways resulting in the trophoblast turnover, placental vascularisation, and placental metabolism underlying placental dysfunctions. This demonstrates that the ESRRG pathway merits further investigation as a potential therapeutic target in FGR and preeclampsia.

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Madelyn K Spooner, Yasser Y Lenis, Rachel Watson, Daniela Jaimes, and Amanda L Patterson

Uterine remodeling during pregnancy and repair postpartum are fundamental to the successful propagation of eutherian species. The most drastic remodeling occurs in species with invasively implanting embryos, including humans and mice. During embryo implantation, embryonic trophoblasts breach the epithelium, penetrating into the stroma. Stromal cell decidualization, which is critical for the establishment and maintenance of early pregnancy, occurs throughout the implantation site. Trophoblasts further invade into and remodel uterine spiral arteries, which is necessary for placental formation. The uterus increases in size up to 24-fold, which is largely attributed to myometrial expansion. Uterine changes that occur during pregnancy must then be resolved postpartum. Following parturition, the uterus repairs the remodeled tissue in the process of uterine involution. During involution, the majority of the endometrium is regenerated to replace the tissue that is shed postpartum. The myometrium returns to the pre-gravid state which is thought to occur through apoptosis and autophagy of smooth muscle cells. Although we understand the general process of postpartum uterine involution, the detailed mechanisms, particularly the role of putative stem cells, are poorly understood. This review discusses the evidence for the existence of epithelial, stromal and myometrial stem cells and their role in uterine involution. Gaps in knowledge and areas for future research are also considered. Studies of both postpartum and menstrual uterine repair, which likely involve similar mechanisms, are described under the broad definition of uterine involution. Although the primary focus of this review is human, mouse models are discussed to provide additional information.

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Pasqualino Loi, Luca Palazzese, Pier Augusto Scapolo, Josef Fulka, Helena Fulka, and Marta Czernik

The birth of Dolly through somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT) was a major scientific breakthrough of the last century. Yet, while significant progress has been achieved across the technics required to reconstruct and in vitro culture nuclear transfer embryos, SCNT outcomes in terms of offspring production rates are still limited. Here we provide a snapshot of the practical application of SCNT in farm animals and pets. Moreover, we suggest a path to improve SCNT through alternative strategies inspired by the physiological reprogramming in male and female gametes in preparation for the totipotency required after fertilization. Almost all papers on SCNT focused on nuclear reprogramming in the somatic cells after nuclear transfer. We believe that this is misleading, and even if it works sometimes, it does so in an uncontrolled way. Physiologically, the oocyte cytoplasm deploys nuclear reprogramming machinery specifically designed to address the male chromosome, the maternal alleles are prepared for totipotency earlier, during oocyte nuclear maturation. Significant advances have been made in remodeling somatic nuclei in vitro through the expression of protamines, thanks to a plethora of data available on spermatozoa epigenetic modifications. Missing are the data on large-scale nuclear reprogramming of the oocyte chromosomes. The main message our article conveys is that the next generation nuclear reprogramming strategies should be guided by insights from in-depth studies on epigenetic modifications in the gametes in preparation for fertilization.

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Delia Alba Soto and Pablo Juan Ross

The germ cell lineage ensures the creation of new individuals and perpetuates the genetic information across generations. Primordial germ cells are pioneers of gametes and exist transiently during development until they differentiate into oogonia in females, or spermatogonia in males. Little is known about the molecular characteristics of primordial germ cells in cattle. By performing single-cell RNA-sequencing, quantitative real-time PCR, and immunofluorescence analyses of fetal gonads between 40 and 90 days of fetal age, we evaluated the molecular signatures of bovine germ cells at the initial stages of gonadal development. Our results indicate that at 50 days of fetal age, bovine primordial germ cells were in the early stages of development, expressing genes of early primordial germ cells, including transcriptional regulators of human germline specification (e.g. SOX17, TFAP2C, and PRDM1). Bovine and human primordial germ cells also share expression of KIT, EPCAM, ITGA6, and PDPN genes coding for membrane-bound proteins, and an asynchronous pattern of differentiation. Additionally, the expression of members of Notch, Nodal/Activin, and BMP signaling cascades in the bovine fetal ovary, suggests that these pathways are involved in the interaction between germ cells and their niche. Results of this study provide insights into the mechanisms involved in the development of bovine primordial germ cells and put in evidence similarities between the bovine and human germline.

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Jon Romero-Aguirregomezcorta, Ricardo Laguna-Barraza, Raúl Fernández-González, Miriama Štiavnická, Fabian Ward, Jennifer Cloherty, Denis McAuliffe, Peter B Larsen, Andreas M Grabrucker, Alfonso Gutiérrez-Adán, David Newport, and Seán Fair

The objective of this work was to elucidate whether a sperm selection method that combines rheotaxis and microfluidics can improve the selection of spermatozoa over density gradient and swim-up. For this purpose human sperm selected by rheotaxis were compared against density gradient, swim-up and a control group of non-selected spermatozoa in split frozen-thawed (FT) and fresh (F) semen samples. Sperm quality was assessed in terms of motility, morphology, DNA fragmentation index (DFI), viability, acrosome integrity and membrane fluidity. Using a mouse model, we compared fertilisation and embryo development rates after performing ICSI with spermatozoa, sorted using rheotaxis or swim-up. Selection by rheotaxis yielded a sperm population with reduced DFI than the control (P < 0.05), improved normal morphology (P < 0.001) and higher total motility (TM; P < 0.001) than the other techniques studied in F and FT samples. Swim-up increased TM compared to density gradient and control in FT or F samples (P < 0.001), and yielded lower DFI than the control with F samples (P < 0.05). In FT samples, selection by rheotaxis yielded sperm with higher viability than control, density gradient and swim-up (P < 0.01) while acrosomal integrity and membrane fluidity were maintained. When mouse spermatozoa were selected for ICSI using rheotaxis compared to swim-up, there was an increase in fertilisation (P < 0.01), implantation (P < 0.001) and foetal development rates (P < 0.05). These results suggest that, in the absence of non-destructive DNA testing, the positive rheotaxis can be used to select a population of low DNA fragmentation spermatozoa with high motility, morphology and viability, leading to improved embryo developmental rates.

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Tse-en Wang, Shiori Minabe, Fuko Matsuda, Sheng-Hsiang Li, Hiroko Tsukamura, Kei-Ichiro Maeda, Lee Smith, Laura O'Hara, Bart M Gadella, and Pei-Shiue Tsai

The epididymis is an androgen-responsive organ, whose structure and functions are modulated by the coordination between androgen and epididymal cues. Highly-regulated molecular interaction within the epididymis is required to support viable sperm development necessary for subsequent fertilization. In the present study, we extended our earlier findings on a promising epididymal protein, quiescin sulfhydryl oxidase 2 (QSOX2), and demonstrated a positive correlation between testosterone and QSOX2 protein synthesis through use of loss- and restore-of-function animal models. Moreover, based on transcriptomic analyses and 2-dimensional culture system, we determined that an additional polarized effect of glutamate is indispensable for the regulatory action of testosterone on QSOX2 synthesis. In conclusion, we propose non-canonical testosterone signaling supports epididymal QSOX2 protein synthesis, providing a novel perspective on the regulation of sperm maturation within the epididymis.

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Chunfang Xu, Weijie Zhao, Xixi Huang, Zhuxuan Jiang, Lu Liu, Liyuan Cui, XinYi Li, Da-Jin Li, and MeiRong Du

Decidualization is the functional transformation process of endometrium in re-sponse to ovarian steroids dedicated to support the embryo development. Defective decidualization is closely associated with various pregnancy complications such as recurrent miscarriage (RM). Dual specificity MAPK phosphatases (MKPs) are a family of phosphatases specifically regulating MAPK signaling with dual specificity for threonine and tyrosine. Here, using RNA-seq we found Dual specificity phospha-tase 1 (DUSP1) expression was prominently elevated among the MKP family mem-bers in db-cAMP treated primary human endometrial stromal cells (ESCs). We veri-fied that its induction by db-cAMP in ESCs was in a dose- and time-dependent man-ner and that primary human decidual stromal cells (DSCs) present higher expression of DUSP1 than ESCs. A PKA inhibitor H-89 abolished its induction in ESCs, but not ESI-09, an EPAC1/2 inhibitor. Knock-down of TORC2/3 but not CREB by siRNA in ESCs diminished its induction by db-cAMP. Furthermore, knock-down of DUSP1, as well as TORC2/3 by siRNA caused abnormal activation of JNK during db-cAMP in-duction in ESCs, accompanied by decreased IGFBP1 expression, an ESC deciduali-zation indicator, which could be fully rescued by a JNK inhibitor SP600125. In addi-tion, Western blot showed that DUSP1 expression was reduced in the DSCs of pa-tients with RM, along with JNK overactivation and decreased IGFBP1 expression. In conclusion, our results demonstrated that TORC2/3-mediated DUSP1 upregulation in response to the cAMP/PKA signaling safeguards IGFBP1 expression via restrain-ing JNK activity, indicating its involvement in ESC decidualization, and that aber-rant expression of DUSP1 in DSCs might engage in the pathogenesis of RM.

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Ling Jin, Liang Ren, Jing Lu, Xue Wen, Siying Zhuang, Ting Geng, and Yuanzhen Zhang

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a common endocrine disorder accompanied by chronic low-grade inflammation; its etiology is still undefined. This study investigated the expression of CXCL12, CXCR4, and CXCR7 in PCOS rats and their role in regulation of apoptosis. To accomplish this, we established an in vivo PCOS rat model and studied KGN cells (human ovarian granulosa cell line) in vitro. In PCOS rats, the ovarian expression of CXCL12, CXCR4, and CXCR7 was reduced, and the apoptosis rate of granulosa cells was increased, accompanied by decreased expression of BCL2 and increased expression of BAX and cleaved CASPASE3 (CASP3). We further showed that recombinant human CXCL12 treatment upregulated BCL2, downregulated BAX, and cleaved CASP3 in KGN cells to inhibit their apoptosis in a concentration-dependent manner; moreover, the effect of CXCL12 was weakened by CXCR4 antagonist AMD3100 and anti-CXCR7 neutralizing antibody. In conclusion, PCOS rats showed decreased CXCL12, CXCR4, and CXCR7 expression and increased apoptosis rate of ovarian granulosa cells. Further, in human KGN cells, CXCL12 regulated the expression of BAX, BCL2, and cleaved CASP3 to inhibit apoptosis through CXCR4- and CXCR7-mediated signal transmission. These findings may provide a theoretical and practical basis for illuminating the role of proinflammatory cytokines in the pathogenesis of PCOS.