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Hui-Qin Mo, Fu-Ju Tian, Xiao-Ling Ma, Yu-Chen Zhang, Cheng-Xi Zhang, Wei-Hong Zeng, Yan Zhang and Yi Lin

Protein disulfide isomerase 3 (PDIA3) is a chaperone protein that modulates the folding of newly synthesized glycoproteins, has isomerase and redox activity, and has been implicated in the pathogenesis of many diseases. However, the role of PDIA3 in pregnancy-associated diseases remains largely unknown. Our present study reveals a key role for PDIA3 in the biology of placental trophoblasts from women with preeclampsia (PE). Immunohistochemistry and Western blot analysis revealed that PDIA3 expression was decreased in villous trophoblasts from women with PE compared to normotensive pregnancies. Further, using a Cell Counting Kit-8 assay, flow cytometry, and 5-ethynyl-2’-deoxyuridine (EdU) staining, we found that siRNA-mediated PDIA3 knockdown significantly promoted apoptosis and inhibited proliferation in the HTR8/SVneo cell line, while overexpression of PDIA3 reversed these effects. Furthermore, RNA sequencing and Western blot analysis demonstrated that knockdown of PDIA3 inhibited MDM2 protein expression in HTR8 cells, concurrent with marked elevation of p53 and p21 expression. Conversely, overexpression of PDIA3 had the opposite effects. Immunohistochemistry and Western blot further revealed that MDM2 protein expression was downregulated and p21 was increased in trophoblasts of women with PE compared to women with normotensive pregnancies. Our findings indicate that PDIA3 expression is decreased in the trophoblasts of women with PE, and decreased PDIA3 induces trophoblast apoptosis and represses trophoblast proliferation through regulating the MDM2/p53/p21 pathway.

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Rocío Martínez-Aguilar, Lucy E Kershaw, Jane J Reavey, Hilary O D Critchley and Jacqueline A Maybin

The endometrium is a multicellular tissue that is exquisitely responsive to the ovarian hormones. The local mechanisms of endometrial regulation to ensure optimal function are less well characterised. Transient physiological hypoxia has been proposed as a critical regulator of endometrial function. Herein, we review the literature on hypoxia in the non-pregnant endometrium. We discuss the pros and cons of animal models, human laboratory studies and novel in vivo imaging for the study of endometrial hypoxia. These research tools provide mounting evidence of a transient hypoxic episode in the menstrual endometrium and suggest that endometrial hypoxia may be present at the time of implantation. This local hypoxia may modify the inflammatory environment, influence vascular remodelling and modulate endometrial proliferation to optimise endometrial function. Finally, we review current knowledge of the impact of this hypoxia on endometrial pathologies, with a focus on abnormal uterine bleeding. Throughout the manuscript areas for future research are highlighted with the aim of concentrating research efforts to maximise future benefits for women and society.

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Nicolas Aranciaga, James D Morton, Debra K Berg and Jessica L Gathercole

Cow subfertility is a multi-factorial problem in many countries which is only starting to be unravelled. Molecular biology can provide a substantial source of insight into its causes and potential solutions, particularly through large scale, untargeted omics approaches. In this systematic review we set out to compile, assess and integrate the latest proteomic and metabolomic research on cow reproduction, specifically that on the female reproductive tract and early embryo. We herein report a general improvement in technical standards throughout the temporal span examined, however significant methodological limitations are also identified. We propose easily actionable avenues for ameliorating these shortcomings and enhancing the reach of this field. Text mining and pathway analysis corroborate the relevance of proteins and metabolites related to the triad oxidative stress-inflammation-disease on reproductive function. We envisage a breakthrough in cattle reproductive molecular research within the next few years as in vivo sample techniques are improved, omics analysis equipment becomes more affordable and widespread, and software tools for single- and multi-omics data processing are further developed. Additional investigation of the impact of local oxidative stress and inflammation on fertility, both at the local and systemic levels, is key towards realising the full potential of this field.

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Lucinda C Aulsebrook, Michael G Bertram, Jake M Martin, Anne E Aulsebrook, Tomas Brodin, Jonathan P Evans, Matthew D Hall, Moira K O’Bryan, Andrew J Pask, Charles R Tyler and Bob B M Wong

Environmental pollution is an increasing problem for wildlife globally. Animals are confronted with many different forms of pollution, including chemicals, light, noise, and heat, and these can disrupt critical biological processes such as reproduction. Impacts on reproductive processes can dramatically reduce the number and quality of offspring produced by exposed individuals, and this can have further repercussions on the ecology and evolution of affected populations. Here, we illustrate how environmental pollutants can affect various components of reproduction in wildlife, including direct impacts on reproductive physiology and development, consequences for gamete quality and function, as well as effects on sexual communication, sexual selection, and parental care. We follow with a discussion of the broader ecological and evolutionary consequences of these effects on reproduction and suggest future directions that may enable us to better understand and address the effects of environmental pollution.

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Olga Tsuiko, Elia Fernandez Gallardo, Thierry Voet and Joris Robert Vermeesch

While chromosomal mosaicism in the embryo was observed already in the ‘90s using both karyotyping and FISH technologies, the full extent of this phenomenon and the overall awareness of the consequences of chromosomal instability on embryo development has only come with the advent of sophisticated single-cell technologies. High-throughput techniques, such as DNA microarrays and massive parallel sequencing, have shifted single-cell genome research from evaluating a few loci at a time to the ability to perform comprehensive screening of all 24 chromosomes. The development of genome-wide single-cell haplotyping methods have also enabled for simultaneous detection of single-gene disorders and aneuploidy using a single universal protocol. Today, three decades later haplotyping-based embryo testing is performed worldwide to reliably detect virtually any Mendelian hereditary disease with a known cause, including autosomal-recessive, autosomal-dominant and X-linked disorders. At the same time, these single-cell assays have also provided unique insight into the complexity of embryo genome dynamics, by elucidating mechanistic origin, nature and developmental fate of embryonic aneuploidy. Understanding the impact of post-zygotically acquired genomic aberrations on embryo development is essential to determine the still controversial diagnostic value of aneuploidy screening. For that reason, considerable efforts have been put into linking the genetic constitution of the embryo not only to its morphology and implantation potential, but more importantly to its transcriptome using single-cell RNA sequencing. Collectively, these breakthrough technologies have revolutionized single-cell research and clinical practice in assisted reproduction and led to unique discoveries in early embryogenesis.

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C A Rezende-Melo, A L Caldeira-Brant, A L Drumond-Bock, G M Buchold, G Shetty, F R C L Almeida, M M Matzuk, K Hara, S Yoshida, M L Meistrich and H Chiarini-Garcia

The existence of cytoplasmic passages between germ cells and their potential function in the control of the spermatogenic process has long been an intriguing question. Evidence of the important role of such structures, known as intercellular bridges (ICB), in spermatogenesis has been implicated by the failure of spermatogenesis in testis-expressed gene 14 (Tex14) mutant mice, which lack the ICBs, to progress past the pachytene spermatocyte stage. Using these Tex14 mutants, the present study evaluated, for the first time, the behavior and synchrony of the spermatogonial lineage in the absence of ICBs. Our data suggest that the absence of these cytoplasmic connections between cells affects the expansion of the undifferentiated type A (Aundiff) spermatogonia compartment and their transition to A1, resulting in a significant numerical reduction of differentiating A1 spermatogonia, but did not interfere with cell amplification during subsequent mitotic steps of differentiating spermatogonia from A1 through intermediate (In). However, beginning at the type B spermatogonia, the synchrony of differentiation was impaired as some cells showed delayed differentiation compared to their behavior in a normal seminiferous epithelium cycle. Thus although spermatogonial development is able to proceed, in the absence of ICBs in Tex14−/ mutants, the yield of cells, specific steps of differentiation, the synchrony of the cell kinetics, and the subsequent progression in meiosis are quantitatively lower than normal.

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Zhengkai Wei, Tingting Yu, Jingjing Wang, Chaoqun Wang, Xiao Liu, Zhen Han, Xu Zhang, Yong Zhang, Hongsheng Ouyang and Zhengtao Yang

Sperm motility, fertilization and embryo implantation are several important factors in reproduction. Except healthy state of sperm and embryo themselves, successful pregnancy is closely related to the status of female reproductive tract immune system. Increased immune cells in reproductive tract often leads to low sperm motility and low chance of embryo implantation, but the mechanisms remain not well clarified. The aim of this study is to investigate the direct effects of swine polymorphonuclear neutrophils (PMNs) on sperm or embryo in vitro and then try to clarify the molecular mechanisms undergoing the phenomenon. Swine sperm-triggered neutrophil extracellular traps (NETs) were observed by scanning electron microscopy (SEM). PMNs phagocytosis of sperms was examined by transmission electron microscopy (TEM). Sperm-triggered NETs were quantitated by Pico Green®. Vital staining of the interaction between PMNs and embryo were observed by using confocal microscope. It was showed that PMNs were directly activated by sperm in the form of phagocytosis or casting NETs and that sperm-triggered-NETs formation was made up with DNA co-located with citrullinated histone 3 (citH3) and myeloperoxidase (MPO). In addition, the potential mechanism of NETs release was relevant to NADPH oxidase, ERK1/2 or p38 MAPK signaling pathways. Of great interest was that swine embryo was first found entangled in NETs in vitro, but the function and mechanism of this action in vivo fertilization still needed further investigation. In conclusion, this is the first report about swine sperm-induced NETs that entangle sperm and embryo, which might provide an entirely understanding of swine reproductive physiology and immunology.

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Naomi C Bernecic, Bart M Gadella, Simon P de Graaf and Tamara Leahy

Compared to other mammalian species, ram spermatozoa are difficult to capacitate in vitro. Dibutyryl cAMP (db-cAMP) and the phosphodiesterase (PDE) inhibitors, caffeine and theophylline (cAMP up-regulators), must be added to traditional capacitation media (containing bicarbonate, calcium and BSA) to elicit a capacitation response. In this exploratory study, we assessed whether bicarbonate was still required for ram spermatozoa if cAMP is up-regulated by the addition of db-cAMP and PDE inhibitors and what role BSA plays in cholesterol efflux under these conditions. In this study, the validated BODIPY-cholesterol assay was used for the first time in ram spermatozoa to quantify cholesterol efflux by tracking the loss of BODIPY-cholesterol from the sperm plasma membrane using flow cytometry. The results show that under cAMP up-regulated conditions, an increase in membrane fluidity and tyrosine phosphorylation of sperm proteins remain as bicarbonate-dependent processes. In fact, the supplementation of bicarbonate under these conditions was necessary to further enhance cAMP production in ram spermatozoa, which correlated with the presence of these capacitation-related processes. When BSA was supplemented with cAMP up-regulators (as well as bicarbonate), there was a loss of approximately 20–23% of BODIPY-cholesterol (79.5 ± 30.5% to 76.9 ± 12.3% remaining from 10 min), indicating that BSA is essential for mediating cholesterol efflux in ram spermatozoa as measured by the BODIPY-cholesterol assay. The current study identifies the functional relationship between bicarbonate, BSA and cAMP up-regulators that is required to support capacitation-related processes in ram spermatozoa, specifically cholesterol efflux.

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Nina Schmid, Annika Missel, Stoyan Petkov, Jan B Stöckl, Florian Flenkenthaler, Georg J Arnold, Thomas Fröhlich, Rüdiger Behr and Artur Mayerhofer

Testicular peritubular cells (TPCs) are smooth muscle-like cells, which form a compartment surrounding the seminiferous tubules. Previous studies employing isolated human testicular peritubular cells (HTPCs) indicated that their roles in the testis go beyond sperm transport and include paracrine and immunological contributions. Peritubular cells from a non-human primate (MKTPCs), the common marmoset monkey, Callithrix jacchus, share a high degree of homology with HTPCs. However, like their human counterparts these cells age in vitro and replicative senescence limits in-depth functional or mechanistic studies. Therefore, a stable cellular model was established. MKTPCs of a young adult animal were immortalized by piggyBac transposition of human telomerase (hTERT), that is, without the expression of viral oncogenes. Immortalized MKTPCs (iMKTPCs) grew without discernable changes for more than 50 passages. An initial characterization revealed typical genes expressed by peritubular cells (androgen receptor (AR), smooth-muscle actin (ACTA2), calponin (CNN1)). A proteome analysis of the primary MKTPCs and the derived immortalized cell line confirmed that the cells almost completely retained their phenotype. To test whether they respond in a similar way as HTPCs, iMKTPCs were challenged with forskolin (FSK) and ATP. As HTPCs, they showed increased expression level of the StAR protein (StAR) after FSK stimulation, indicating steroidogenic capacity. ATP increased the expression of pro-inflammatory factors (e.g. IL1B; CCL7), as it is the case in HTPCs. Finally, we confirmed that iMKTPCs can efficiently be transfected. Therefore, they represent a highly relevant translational model, which allows mechanistic studies for further exploration of the roles of testicular peritubular cells.

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Philippe Godin, Mayra Tsoi, Marilène Paquet and Derek Boerboom

The development of the Müllerian ducts into the female reproductive tract requires the coordination of multiple signaling pathways that regulate proliferation, apoptosis and differentiation. The Hippo pathway has been reported to interact with several pathways with established roles in Müllerian duct development; yet, its potential roles in reproductive tract development and function remain mostly uncharacterized. The objective of this study was therefore to characterize the roles of the Hippo transcriptional coactivators YAP and TAZ in the female reproductive tract using transgenic mouse models. This report shows that the concomitant conditional inactivation of Yap and Taz in the mouse Müllerian duct mesenchyme results in postnatal developmental defects of the oviduct. Most notably, discontinuities in the myosalpinx layer lead to the progressive formation of cystic dilations of the isthmus. These defects prevented embryo transport and subsequent implantation in older animals, causing infertility. The loss of YAP/TAZ did not appear to affect other biological processes known to be required for the maintenance of oviductal wall integrity, such as TGF-β/SMAD and Notch signaling and the biogenesis of miRNA, suggesting that the Hippo pathway acts independently of these processes to direct oviduct development. Taken together, these results suggest redundant and essential roles for YAP and TAZ in the postnatal development of the oviduct and the maintenance of its structural integrity.