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S Freret, M Oseikria, D Le Bourhis, A Desmarchais, E Briant, O Desnoes, M Dupont, L Le Berre, O Ghazouani, P S Bertevello, A P Teixeira-Gomes, V Labas, S Uzbekova, P Salvetti, V Maillard and S Elis

Beneficial effects of n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA) supplementation on dairy cow reproduction have been previously reported. The objectives of the present study were to assess whether n-3 PUFA supplementation would affect in vitro embryo production (IVP) after ovarian stimulation. Holstein cows received a diet with 1% dry matter supplementation of either n-3 PUFA (n = 18, microencapsulated fish oil) or a control, n-6 PUFA (n = 19, microencapsulated soy oil). Both plasma and follicular fluid FA composition showed integration of total PUFA through the diet. All cows underwent an IVP protocol consisting of ovarian stimulation, ultrasound-guided transvaginal oocyte retrieval (ovum pick-up, OPU, five per cow) followed by in vitro maturation, fertilisation and 7 days of embryo development. A tendency toward an increase in the blastocyst rate (diet effect, P = 0.0865) was observed in n-3 cows, with 49.6 ± 5.5% vs 42.3 ± 5.5% in control n-6 cows. A significant increase (diet effect, P = 0.0217) in the good-quality blastocyst rate (freezable blastocysts) was reported in n-3 cows (42.2 ± 7.7%) compared to control n-6 cows (32.7 ± 7.7%). A significant difference in lipid composition was shown in the oocytes recovered by OPU from n-3 and n-6 treated cows, by intact single-oocyte MALDI-TOF mass spectrometry. The 42 differentially abundant identified lipids were mainly involved in cell membrane structure. In conclusion, n-3 PUFA supplementation enhanced oocyte quality and modified their lipid composition. Further studies are necessary to investigate the potential link of these lipid modifications with enhanced oocyte quality.

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Claus Yding Andersen, Linn Salto Mamsen and Stine Gry Kristensen

Ovarian tissue cryopreservation (OTC) is mainly used for fertility preservation in girls and women facing a gonadotoxic treatment. If the woman subsequently becomes menopausal, the ovarian tissue may be transplanted to regain ovarian function, including fertility. The method was developed more than two decades ago and today thousands of women worldwide have undergone OTC. Fewer than 500 patients have had tissue transplanted and close to 100% of those regain ovarian function. Several technical aspects of OTC are now becoming more established, including high quantitative follicle survival, defining the size of the tissue resulting in optimal tissue re-vascularisation and follicle loss resulting from transport of ovarian tissue prior to freezing.

We have used OTC to safeguard fertility in patients with genetic diseases, which for some diagnoses is purely experimental, as no transplantations has yet been performed.

Usage of OTC beyond fertility is now also being considered; here the endocrine function of follicles is the focus. It has been suggested that ovarian tissue stored in the reproductive years may be used to avoid premature ovarian insufficiency (POI) when there is a familial disposition or to postpone menopause in patients with an increased risk of osteoporosis or cardiovascular diseases. The benefit of OTC beyond fertility requires, however, actual clinical studies.

The current review includes several recent technical aspects with contributions from Denmark building on some of the early work by Roger Gosden.

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Meriem Hamdi, María J Sánchez-Calabuig, Beatriz Rodríguez-Alonso, Sandra Bagés Arnal, Kalliopi Roussi, Roger Sturmey, Alfonso Gutiérrez-Adán, Patrick Lonergan and Dimitrios Rizos

During its journey through the oviduct, the bovine embryo may induce transcriptomic and metabolic responses, via direct or indirect contact, from bovine oviduct epithelial cells (BOECs). An in vitro model using polyester mesh was established, allowing the study of the local contact during 48 h between a BOEC monolayer and early embryos (2- or 8-cell stage) or their respective conditioned media (CM). The transcriptomic response of BOEC to early embryos was assessed by analyzing the transcript abundance of SMAD6, TDGF1, ROCK1, ROCK2, SOCS3, PRELP and AGR3 selected from previous in vivo studies and GPX4, NFE2L2, SCN9A, EPSTI1 and IGFBP3 selected from in vitro studies. Moreover, metabolic analyses were performed on the media obtained from the co-culture. Results revealed that presence of early embryos or their CM altered the BOEC expression of NFE2L2, GPX4, SMAD6, IGFBP3, ROCK2 and SCN9A. However, the response of BOEC to two-cell embryos or their CM was different from that observed to eight-cell embryos or their CM. Analysis of energy substrates and amino acids revealed that BOEC metabolism was not affected by the presence of early embryos or by their CM. Interestingly, embryo metabolism before embryo genome activation (EGA) seems to be independent of exogenous sources of energy. In conclusion, this study confirms that early embryos affect BOEC transcriptome and BOEC response was embryo stage specific. Moreover, embryo affects BOEC via a direct contact or via its secretions. However transcriptomic response of BOEC to the embryo did not manifest as an observable metabolic response.

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Helena Malvezzi, Camila Hernandes, Carla A Piccinato and Sérgio Podgaec

The objective is to study the significance of altered interleukin levels in endometriosis-related infertility or pelvic pain. The present systematic review and meta-analysis includes a discussion on the roles of interleukin in the physiopathology of endometriosis-associated infertility and/or pelvic pain. We included all studies in which interleukins in peritoneal fluid, follicular fluid or serum from patients were measured and that correlated the findings with either peritoneal or deep endometriosis-associated infertility or pelvic pain. For the meta-analysis, we selected studies on the following cytokines: interleukin-1 (IL-1), interleukin-6 (IL-6) and interleukin-8 (IL-8). Endometriosis is a chronic inflammatory disease. Inflammatory processes clearly participate in the etiology of endometriosis. Cytokines are mediators of inflammation, and increase in their concentration in plasma or other body fluids signals the presence and extent of tissue lesions. A number of studies have reported on the association between higher cytokine levels and progression or maintenance of endometriosis and coexisting infertility or pelvic pain. The results of the analyses support that an association exists between elevated serum IL-6 and/or IL-8 concentrations and the occurrence of endometriosis-associated infertility. Such association was not found for endometriosis-associated pain. In spite of accumulated evidence on the association of pro-inflammatory cytokines and endometriosis, it still is not clear if and how these mediators participate in the physiopathology of endometriosis-associated infertility or pelvic pain, in part due to poor quality of the evidence established in the vast majority of interleukins and challenges in endometriosis research reproducibility. In summary, the results of the analyses support that an association exists between elevated serum IL-6 and/or IL-8 concentrations and the occurrence of endometriosis-associated infertility.

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Claudia Fricke and Mareike Koppik

Ageing is nearly ubiquitous and encompasses all biological functions. We here focus on age-dependent changes in male reproductive capacity across a broad range of animal taxa. While there has been a long-standing focus on mating ability and overall reproductive success, we here highlight the underlying mechanisms that explain loss in fertilization capacity in ageing males. Fertilization is not only mediated by presence of sperm, but also the cocktail of seminal fluid proteins that ensure sperm survival, capacitation and interaction with female physiology. Sperm ageing has received much attention in studies of male reproductive senescence, however post-mating processes include a number of interlocked steps that together cumulate in successful fertilization. As such we consider male ability to elicit i.e. female uterine conformational changes, sperm storage and ovulation and the components within the ejaculate that mediate these post-mating processes. For the latter seminal fluid proteins are key and hence we reflect on age-dependent changes in quality of the entire ejaculate and its consequences for male reproductive capacity. While first studies accrue and highlight that changes in the non-sperm fraction can explain substantial variation in senescent male reproductive success and male ability to induce post-mating responses necessary for fertilization many open questions still remain that warrant further investigations. One being what the potential age-dependent changes in composition are or whether there is a general decline and how this interacts with sperm to affect fertilization success. Further, the impact females might have to ameliorate these changes will be an area of interest.

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Vinay Shukla, Jyoti Bala Kaushal, Rohit Kumar, Pooja Popli, Promod Kumar Agnihotri, Kalyan Mitra and Anila Dwivedi

Microtubule (MT) dynamics plays a crucial role in fertilization and early embryonic development; however its involvement in uterus during embryo implantation remains unclear. Herein, we report the effect of microtubule depolymerization during embryo implantation in BALB/c mice. Intrauterine treatment with depolymerizing agent nocodazole at pre-implantation phase (D4, 07:00 h) in mice resulted into mitigation in receptivity markers viz. LIF, HoxA10, Integrin-β3, IHH, WNT4 and led to pregnancy failure. MT depolymerization in endometrial epithelial cells (EECs) also inhibited the blastocyst attachment and the adhesion. The decreased expression of MT polymerization-related proteins TPPP and α/β-tubulin in luminal and glandular epithelial cells along with the alteration in morphology of pinopodes in the luminal epithelium was observed in nocodazole receiving uteri. Nocodazole treatment also led to increased intracellular Ca+2 levels in EECs, which indicated that altered Ca+2 homeostasis might be responsible for implantation failure. Microtubule depolymerization inhibited WNT4 and Fz-2 interaction, thereby suppressing the downstream WNT4/CaMKIIα signaling cascades calmodulin and calcineurin which led to attenuation of NF-κB transcriptional promoter activity in EECs. MT depolymerization or CaMKIIα knockdown inhibited the transcription factor NFAT and NF-κB expression along with reduced secretion of prostaglandins PGE2 and PGF2α in mouse EECs. Overall, MT depolymerization impaired the WNT4/CaMKIIα signaling and suppressed the secretion of PGE2 and PGF2α in EECs which may be responsible for implantation failure in mice.

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Ratana Lim and Martha Lappas

Inflammation plays a pivotal role in the terminal process of human labor and delivery, including myometrial contractions and membrane rupture. TNF-alpha-induced protein 8-like-2 (TIPE2) is a novel inflammation regulator; however, there are no studies on the role of TIPE2 in human labor. We report that in myometrium, there is decreased TIPE2 mRNA expression during late gestation which was further decreased in labor. In fetal membranes, TIPE2 mRNA expression was decreased with both term and preterm labor compared to no labor samples. Knockdown of TIPE2 by siRNA in primary myometrium and amnion cells was associated with an augmentation of IL1B and TNF-induced expression of pro-inflammatory cytokines and chemokines; expression of contraction-associated proteins and secretion of the uterotonic prostaglandin PGF and expression of extracellular matrix degrading enzymes. In TIPE2-deficient myometrial cells treated with inhibitors of NF-κB or ERK1/2, the secretion of pro-labor mediators was reduced back to control levels. In conclusion, these in vitro experiments indicate that loss of TIPE2 exacerbates the inflammatory response.

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Rachel L Piersanti, Anthony D Horlock, Jeremy Block, José E P Santos, I Martin Sheldon and John J Bromfield

Metritis is associated with reduced fertility in dairy cows, but the mechanisms are unclear because the disease resolves several weeks before insemination. One hypothesis is that metritis causes persistent changes in granulosa cells during follicle development, which might be evident in the transcriptome of granulosa cells from dominant follicles weeks after parturition. To test this hypothesis, we collected the follicular fluid and granulosa cells from dominant follicles 63 days post partum from cows previously diagnosed with metritis, at least 6 weeks after resolution of the disease and from cows not diagnosed with metritis (control cows). Bacterial lipopolysaccharide was detected in follicular fluid, and concentrations were associated with follicular fluid IL-8 and glucose concentrations. Transcriptome analysis using RNAseq revealed 177 differentially expressed genes in granulosa cells collected from cows that had metritis compared with control cows. The most upregulated genes were ITLN1, NCF2, CLRN3, FSIP2 and ANKRD17, and the most downregulated genes were ACSM1, NR4A2, GHITM, CBARP and NR1I3. Pathway analysis indicated that the differentially expressed genes were involved with immune function, cell–cell communication, cell cycle and cellular metabolism. Predicted upstream regulators of the differentially expressed genes included NFκB, IL-21 and lipopolysaccharide, which are associated with infection and immunity. Our data provide evidence for a persistent effect of metritis on the transcriptome of granulosa cells in ovarian follicles after the resolution of disease.

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Fan Zhou, Wei Chen, Yiqun Jiang and Zuping He

Spermatogonial stem cells (SSCs) are one of the most significant stem cells with the potentials of self-renewal, differentiation, transdifferentiation and dedifferentiation, and thus, they have important applications in reproductive and regenerative medicine. They can transmit the genetic and epigenetic information across generations, which highlights the importance of the correct establishment and maintenance of epigenetic marks. Accurate transcriptional and post-transcriptional regulation is required to support the highly coordinated expression of specific genes for each step of spermatogenesis. Increasing evidence indicates that non-coding RNAs (ncRNAs), including long non-coding RNAs (lncRNAs) and circular RNAs (circRNAs), play essential roles in controlling gene expression and fate determination of male germ cells. These ncRNA molecules have distinct characteristics and biological functions, and they independently or cooperatively modulate the proliferation, apoptosis and differentiation of SSCs. In this review, we summarized the features, biological function and fate of mouse and human SSCs, and we compared the characteristics of lncRNAs and circRNAs. We also addressed the roles and mechanisms of lncRNAs and circRNAs in regulating mouse and human SSCs, which would add novel insights into the epigenetic mechanisms underlying mammalian spermatogenesis and provide new approaches to treat male infertility.

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Blanche Capel

Work that established the testis as the driver of male development, and the Y-chromosome as the bearer of the male-determining gene, established a working model, and set the stage for the molecular age of mammalian sex determination. The discovery and characterization of Sry/SRY at the top of the hierarchy in mammals launched the field in two major directions. The first was to identify the downstream transcription factors and other molecular players that drive the bifurcation of Sertoli and granulosa cell differentiation. The second major direction was to understand organogenesis of the early bipotential gonad, and how divergence of its two distinct morphogenetic pathways (testis and ovary) is regulated at the cellular level. This review will summarize the early discoveries soon after Sry was identified, and focus on my study of the gonad as a model of organogenesis.