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Hong-Lan Song, Tai-Hang Liu, Yong-Heng Wang, Fang-Fang Li, Ling-Ling Ruan, Enoch Appiah Adu-Gyamfi, Si-Chen Hu, Xue-Mei Chen, Yu-Bin Ding, and Li-Juan Fu

The syncytiotrophoblast, derived from cytotrophoblast fusion, is responsible for maternal–fetal exchanges, secretion of pregnancy-related hormones, and fetal defense against pathogens. Inadequate cytotrophoblast fusion can lead to pregnancy disorders, such as preeclampsia and fetal growth restriction. However, little is known about the mechanism of cytotrophoblast fusion in both physiological and pathological pregnancy conditions. In this study, P57kip2 (P57), a cell cycle-dependent kinase inhibitor that negatively regulates the cell cycle, was found to be up-regulated during the process of syncytialization in both primary trophoblast cells and BeWo cells. Co-immunofluorescence with proliferation markers Ki67 and Cyclin-CDK factors further showed that P57 specifically localizes in the post-mitotic cytotrophoblast subtype of the early pregnancy villi. Overexpression of P57 promoted trophoblast syncytialization by arresting the cell cycle at the G1/G0 phase and inhibiting proliferation. Blocking of the cell cycle through a serum starvation culture resulted in an enhancement of cytotrophoblast fusion and the up-regulation of P57. In both spontaneous cytotrophoblast fusion and forskolin-induced BeWo cell fusion models, an initial up-regulation of P57 was observed followed by a subsequent down-regulation. These findings indicate that proper expression of P57 at cytotrophoblast differentiation nodes plays an important role in trophoblast syncytialization.

Open access

Yu-chen Zhang, Xiao-li Qin, Xiao-ling Ma, Hui-qin Mo, Shi Qin, Cheng-xi Zhang, Xiao-wei Wei, Xue-qing Liu, Yan Zhang, Fu-ju Tian, and Yi Lin

Preeclampsia is a gestational hypertensive disease; however, preeclampsia remains poorly understood. Bioinformatics analysis was applied to find novel genes involved in the pathogenesis of preeclampsia and identified CLDN1 as one of the most differentially expressed genes when comparing patients with preeclampsia and healthy controls. The results of the qRT-PCR, Western blotting and immunohistochemistry experiments demonstrated that CLDN1 was significantly downregulated in the chorionic villi in samples from patients with preeclampsia. Furthermore, knockdown of CLDN1 in HTR-8/SVneo cells resulted in the inhibition of proliferation and induction of apoptosis, and overexpression of CLDN1 reversed these effects. In addition, RNA-seq assays demonstrated that the gene BIRC3 is potentially downstream of CLDN1 and is involved in the regulation of apoptosis. Knockdown of CLDN1 confirmed that the expression level of BIRC3 was obviously decreased and was associated with a significant increase in cleaved PARP. Interestingly, the apoptotic effect in CLDN1 knockdown cells was rescued after BIRC3 overexpression. Overall, these results indicate that a decrease in CLDN1 inhibits BIRC3 expression and increases cleaved PARP levels thus participating in the pathogenesis of preeclampsia.

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Shinnosuke Suzuki, John R McCarrey, and Brian P Hermann

Initiation of spermatogonial differentiation in the mouse testis begins with the response to retinoic acid (RA) characterized by activation of KIT and STRA8 expression. In the adult, spermatogonial differentiation is spatiotemporally coordinated by a pulse of RA every 8.6 days that is localized to stages VII–VIII of the seminiferous epithelial cycle. Dogmatically, progenitor spermatogonia that express retinoic acid receptor gamma (RARG) at these stages will differentiate in response to RA, but this has yet to be tested functionally. Previous single-cell RNA-seq data identified phenotypically and functionally distinct subsets of spermatogonial stem cells (SSCs) and progenitor spermatogonia, where late progenitor spermatogonia were defined by expression of RARG and Dppa3. Here, we found late progenitor spermatogonia (RARGhigh KIT−) were further divisible into two subpopulations based on Dppa3 reporter expression (Dppa3-ECFP or Dppa3-EGFP) and were observed across all stages of the seminiferous epithelial cycle. However, nearly all Dppa3+ spermatogonia were differentiating (KIT+) late in the seminiferous epithelial cycle (stages X–XII), while Dppa3− late progenitors remained abundant, suggesting that Dppa3+ and Dppa3− late progenitors differentially responded to RA. Following acute RA treatment (2–4 h), significantly more Dppa3+ late progenitors induced KIT, including at the midpoint of the cycle (stages VI–IX), than Dppa3− late progenitors. Subsequently, single-cell analyses indicated a subset of Dppa3+ late progenitors expressed higher levels of Rxra, which we confirmed by RXRA whole-mount immunostaining. Together, these results indicate RARG alone is insufficient to initiate a spermatogonial response to RA in the adult mouse testis and suggest differential RXRA expression may discriminate responding cells.

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Hossam El-Sheikh Ali, Kirsten E Scoggin, Rebecca Ruby, Alan Loynachan, Yatta Boakari, Claudia Fernandes, Pouya Dini, Carleigh Elizabeth Fedorka, Shavahn C Loux, Alejandro Esteller-Vico, and Barry A Ball

Cervical remodeling is a critical component in both term and preterm labor in eutherian mammals. However, the molecular mechanisms underlying cervical remodeling remain poorly understood in the mare. The current study compared the transcriptome of the equine cervix (cervical mucosa (CM) and stroma (CS)) during placentitis (placentitis group, n  = 5) and normal prepartum mares (prepartum group, n  = 3) to normal pregnant mares (control group, n  = 4). Transcriptome analysis identified differentially expressed genes (DEGs) during placentitis (5310 in CM and 907 in CS) and during the normal prepartum period (189 in CM and 78 in CS). Our study revealed that cervical remodeling during placentitis was dominated by inflammatory signaling as reflected by the overrepresented toll-like receptor signaling, interleukin signaling, T cell activation, and B cell activation pathways. These pathways were accompanied by upregulation of several proteases, including matrix metalloproteinases (MMP1, MMP2, and MMP9), cathepsins (CTSB, CTSC, and CTSD) and a disintegrin and metalloproteinase with thrombospondin type 1 motifs (ADAMTS1, ADAMTS4, and ADAMTS5), which are crucial for degradation of cervical collagens during remodeling. Cervical remodeling during placentitis was also associated with upregulation of water channel-related transcripts (AQP9 and RLN), angiogenesis-related transcripts (NOS3, ENG1, THBS1, and RAC2), and aggrecan (ACAN), a hydrophilic glucosaminoglycan, with subsequent cervical hydration. The normal prepartum cervix was associated with upregulation of ADAMTS1, ADAMTS4, NOS3 and THBS1, which might reflect an early stage of cervical remodeling taking place in preparation for labor. In conclusion, our findings revealed the possible key regulators and mechanisms underlying equine cervical remodeling during placentitis and the normal prepartum period.

Open access

Aleona Swegen

Maternal recognition of pregnancy (MRP) is a process by which an early conceptus signals its presence to the maternal system and prevents the lysis of the corpus luteum, thus ensuring a maternal milieu supportive of pregnancy continuation. It is a fundamental aspect of reproductive biology, yet in the horse, the mechanism underlying MRP remains unknown. This review seeks to address some of the controversies surrounding the evidence and theories of MRP in the equine species, such as the idea that the horse does not conform to the MRP paradigm established in other species or that equine MRP involves a mechanical, rather than chemical, signal. The review examines the challenges of studying this particularly clandestine phenomenon along with the new tools in scientific research that will drive this quest forward in coming years, and discuss the value of knowledge gleaned along this path in the context of clinical applications for improving breeding outcomes in the horse industry.

Free access

Fuhua Xu, Shally Wolf, O'ryai Green, and Jing Xu

Vitamin D (VD) is a secosteroid hormone synthesized predominantly in the skin upon UV light exposure, which can also be obtained from dietary sources. In target cells, the bioactive VD binds to specific VD receptor to regulate downstream transcription of genes that are involved in a wide range of cellular processes. There is an increasing recognition that the proper physiological levels of VD are critical for optimizing reproductive potential in women. The direct VD action in the ovary was first suggested in the 1980s. Since then, research has attempted to determine the role of VD in follicular development and oocyte maturation in animal models and clinical settings. However, data published to date are inconclusive due to the complexity in VD metabolism and the fact that VD actions are pervasive in regulating physiological functions in various systems, including the reproductive, endocrine and nervous systems that control reproduction. This review summaries in vitro, in vivo, and clinical evidence regarding VD metabolism and signaling in the ovary, as well as VD-regulated or VD-associated ovarian follicular development, steroidogenic function, and oocyte maturation. It is suggested that adequate animal models are needed for well-controlled studies to unravel molecular mechanisms of VD action in the ovary. For clinical studies, follicular development and function may be evaluated more effectively in a relatively homogeneous patient population under a well-controlled experimental design. A comprehensive understanding of VD-regulated folliculogenesis and oogenesis will provide critical insight into the impact of VD in female reproductive health.

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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.