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Minkyeong Lee, Changwon Yang, Gwonhwa Song, and Whasun Lim

The reproductive tract in avian females is sensitive to hormonal regulation. Exogenous estrogen induces immature oviduct development to improve egg production after molting. In this process, regressed female reproductive tract is regenerated in response to the secretion of estrogen. However, there is limited knowledge on the physiological mechanisms underlying the regulation of the avian female reproductive system. In our previous study, results from microarray analysis revealed that the expression of genes encoding egg white proteins is affected during molting. Herein, we artificially induced the molting period in chickens through a zinc-containing diet. Subsequently, changes in the expression of genes encoding egg white proteins were confirmed in the oviduct tissue. The levels of MUC5B, ORM1, RTBDN, and TENP mRNA were significantly high in the oviduct, and the genes were repressed in the regression phase, whereas these were expressed in the recrudescence phase, particularly in the luminal epithelium and glandular epithelium of the oviduct, during molting. Moreover, we observed that gene expression was induced in the magnum, the site for the secretion of egg white components. Next, differences in expression levels of the four genes in normal and cancerous ovaries were compared. Collectively, results suggest that the four selected genes are expressed in the female chicken reproductive tract in response to hormonal regulation, and egg white protein-encoding genes may serve as modulators of the reproductive system in hens.

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Tereza Pauerova, Lenka Radonova, Kristina Kovacovicova, Lucia Novakova, Michal Skultety, and Martin Anger

Aneuploidy is the most frequent single cause leading into the termination of early development in human and animal reproduction. Although the mouse is frequently used as a model organism for studying the aneuploidy, we have only incomplete information about the frequency of numerical chromosomal aberrations throughout development, usually limited to a particular stage or assumed from the occurrence of micronuclei. In our study, we systematically scored aneuploidy in in vivo mouse embryos, from zygotes up to 16-cell stage, using kinetochore counting assay. We show here that the frequency of aneuploidy per blastomere remains relatively similar from zygotes until 8-cell embryos and then increases in 16-cell embryos. Due to the accumulation of blastomeres, aneuploidy per embryo increases gradually during this developmental period. Our data also revealed that the aneuploidy from zygotes and 2-cell embryos does not propagate further into later developmental stages, suggesting that embryos suffering from aneuploidy are eliminated at this stage. Experiments with reconstituted live embryos revealed, that hyperploid blastomeres survive early development, although they exhibit slower cell cycle progression and suffer frequently from DNA fragmentation and cell cycle arrest.

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Maria S Ferrer, Roberto Palomares, David Hurley, Anna-Claire Bullington, Alejandro Hoyos-Jaramillo, and João H Bittar

Bovine antisperm antibodies (ASAs) have been associated with teratospermia and asthenospermia. It was hypothesized here that scrotal insulation induces the formation of ASAs and deterioration of sperm function. Scrotal insulation bags were placed in 10 bulls for 8 days. Semen was collected on days −29, −22 and −2, twice weekly from days 5 to 54, and thereafter weekly until day 96 (day 0 = first day of scrotal insulation). On each collection day, scrotal circumference, sperm motility, morphology, membrane integrity, acrosome integrity, apoptosis, lipid peroxidation, mitochondrial membrane potential, ASA binding and DNA integrity were evaluated. The percentage of IgG- and IgA-bound sperm increased between days 12 and 96 (P < 0.0001), in association with poor motility (days 19–30, P < 0.005) and morphology (days 8–40, P < 0.0001). Mean scrotal circumference decreased between days 15 and 75 (P < 0.0001). There was also a deterioration in sperm membrane integrity (days 19–40, P < 0.0001), acrosome integrity (days 26–89, P < 0.0001), lipid peroxidation (days 5–12, P < 0.0001), and mitochondrial membrane potential (days 12–96, P = 0.001). In contrast, a decrease in apoptotic cells (days 37–83, P = 0.0002) and lipid peroxidation (days 19–96, P < 0.0001) was noticed. Most bulls recovered normospermia by day 96. However, the persistence of ASAs, acrosomal damage and dysfunctional mitochondria suggest a long term effect of scrotal insulation on sperm function and the homeostasis of the reproductive immune system.

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Leyla Sati

The circadian system regulates the daily temporal organization in behavior and physiology, including neuroendocrine rhythms and reproduction. Modern life, however, increasingly impacts this complex biological system. Due to limitations of working with human subjects exposed to shift work schedules, most chronoregulation research has used rodent models. Recent publications in these model systems have emphasized the negative effects of circadian rhythm disruption on both female and male reproductive systems and fertility. Additionally, there is growing concern about the long-term effects of circadian rhythm disruptions during pregnancy on human offspring and their descendants as circadian regulation during pregnancy can also alter epigenetic programing in offspring. However, to truly know if such concerns apply to humans will require retrospective and prospective human studies. Therefore, this review will highlight the latest available evidence regarding potential effects of chronodisruption on both female and male reproductive systems. Additionally, it presents a comprehensive summary of transgenerational and epigenetic effects on adult offspring that result from maternal chronodisruption.

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Marcela Vilarino, Delia Alba Soto, Yanina Soledad Bogliotti, Leqian Yu, Yanli Zhang, Chunsheng Wang, Erika Paulson, Cuiqing Zhong, Miaohan Jin, Juan Carlos Izpisua Belmonte, Jun Wu, and Pablo Juan Ross

Until recently, it has been difficult to derive and maintain stable embryonic stem cells lines from livestock species. Sheep ESCs with characteristics similar to those described for rodents and primates have not been produced. We report the derivation of sheep ESCs under a chemically defined culture system containing fibroblast growth factor 2 (FGF2) and a tankyrase/Wnt inhibitor (IWR1). We also show that several culture conditions used for stabilizing naïve and intermediate pluripotency states in humans and mice were unsuitable to maintain ovine pluripotency in vitro. Sheep ESCs display a smooth dome-shaped colony morphology, and maintain an euploid karyotype and stable expression of pluripotency markers after more than 40 passages. We further demonstrate that IWR1 and FGF2 are essential for the maintenance of an undifferentiated state in de novo derived sheep ESCs. The derivation of stable pluripotent cell lines from sheep blastocysts represents a step forward toward understanding pluripotency regulation in livestock species and developing novel biomedical and agricultural applications.

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Alisa Komsky-Elbaz, Dorit Kalo, and Zvi Roth

This study aims to evaluate the deleterious effect of the mycotoxin aflatoxin B1 (AFB1) on bull spermatozoa and the carryver effect on the developing embryo. Proteomic analysis of AFB1-treated spermatozoa revealed differential expression of proteins associated with biological processes and cellular pathways that involved in spermatozoon function, fertilization competence and embryonic development. Therefore, we assume that factors delivered by the spermatozoa, regardless of DNA fragmentation, are also involved. To confirm this hypothesis, we have used the annexin V (AV) kit to separate the spermatozoa into apoptotic (AV+) and non-apoptotic (AV−) subpopulations which were found to correlate with high- and low DNA fragmentation, respectively. Fertilization with AV+ AFB1-treated spermatozoa, resulted in no blastocyst formation, whereas fertilization with AV− spermatozoa resulted in reduced cleavage rate and formation of genetically altered blastocysts (POU5F1 and SOX2). Microarray analysis of blastocysts derived from 10 µM AFB1-treated spermatozoa revealed differential expression of 345 genes that involved in cellular pathways such as embryo and placenta development, cell cycle, DNA repair and histone modification, and in signaling pathways, especially calcium signaling pathway. This is the first report on deleterious carrying over effects of AFB1 from the bovine spermatozoa to the formed embryo. Our findings suggest that aside from the damage caused by AFB1 to spermatozoa’s DNA integrity, additional damage mechanisms are involved.

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Lee H A Morris, P M McCue, and Christine Aurich

Endometritis in the mare begins as a normal physiological inflammatory response to breeding that involves both a mechanical and immunological response pathway activated to rid the uterus of semen and bacteria. With successful resolution of this inflammation, the mare‘s uterus will provide a hospitable environment for the development of the semi-allogenic conceptus. If the mare fails to resolve this inflammatory response within 48 h of breeding, she will become susceptible to persistent breeding-induced endometritis (PBIE) which will have detrimental effects on her fertility. This condition can then predispose the mare to bacterial or fungal endometritis leading to further degeneration of the endometrium. Optimisation of the mare’s fertility requires a fine balance between allowing the natural immune response of the endometrium to its exposure to allogenic semen to run its course, and yet preventing its progression to PBIE or the involvement of infectious agents. This review discusses the challenges presented by PBIE, latent infections, biofilms, fungal infections and the need to utilise diagnostic methods available and implement targeted treatments to optimise fertility in the mare.

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Robert Kammerer, Angela Ballesteros, Daniel Bonsor, James Warren, John M Williams, Tom Moore, and Gabriela Dveksler

In early equine pregnancy, a highly invasive trophoblast cell subpopulation, the chorionic girdle cells, invade the endometrium and form endometrial cups (EC). These cells express classical MHC molecules, thereby stimulating a humoral and cellular immune response, resulting in a massive accumulation of maternal CD4+ and CD8+ T cells around the EC. Nevertheless, no immediate destruction of endometrial cups by maternal lymphoid cells occurs, presumably due to immune tolerance. Although the environment of EC is rich in TGFB and in FOXP3+, CD4+ T cells, the mechanisms leading to tolerance have not been elucidated. Recently, we discovered that equine trophoblast cells secrete pregnancy-specific glycoproteins (PSGs). Since human and murine PSGs activate latent TGFB, we hypothesized that equine PSGs may have a similar activity. We performed plasmon surface resonance experiments to show that equine PSG CEACAM49 can directly bind to the latency-associated peptide (LAP) of both TGFB1 and TGFB2. We then found that the binding of CEACAM49 leads to the activation of TGFB1 as determined by both ELISA and cell-based assays. Furthermore, the activation of TGFB is a unique function of PSGs within the human CEA family, because CEACAM1, 3, 5, 6, 8 do not activate this cytokine. This finding further strengthens the classification of CEACAM49 as an equine PSG. Based on our results, we hypothesize that activation of latent TGFB in the EC environment by equine PSGs secreted by invasive trophoblast cells, could contribute to the generation of regulatory T cells (Tregs) to maintain immune tolerance.

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Marcia Riboldi, Ivonne Nazir, Belén Jara, Felipe Argandoña, Cecilia Valencia, Paulo C Serafini, Eduardo Leme Alves Motta, Denisse Mena-Silva, Reinaldo González-Ramos, M Cecilia Johnson, Ariel Fuentes, Karina Sequeira, and Alejandro Tapia-Pizarro

During embryo implantation, endometrial angiogenesis is regulated by signals originating from the endometrium itself and the developing embryo. It has been suggested that hCG may play a pro-angiogenic role; therefore, we sought to understand its regulatory role in blood vessel formation in human endometrium using in vivo and in vitro models. In the in vivo model, we screened 16 angiogenesis-related transcripts in the endometrium upon intrauterine administration of hCG. Oocyte donors were recruited and during their controlled ovarian stimulation cycle received a single dose of hCG or vehicle on the day of oocyte pick up during a cycle of ovarian stimulation. One hour before obtaining an endometrial sample, women received an intrauterine administration of vehicle or hCG (500, 1500 and 5000 IU). Transcript and protein analysis showed that MMP3 and VEGFA increased, whereas TIMP1 decreased. The in vitro analysis studied the angiogenic potential of conditioned medium (CM) from primary cultures of human endometrial stromal cells (ESC) stimulated with hCG. Using a 2D and 3D in vitro angiogenesis assays, our results indicate that CM from ESC almost completely inhibits the capillary-like structure formation in endothelial cells, overriding the pro-angiogenic effect of hCG; and this inhibition due to secreted factors present in CM specifically reduced the migration potential of endothelial cells. In conclusion, the endometrial stromal milieu seems to modulate the direct pro-angiogenic effects of hCG on endothelial cells during embryo implantation.

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Róisín A Griffin, Aleona Swegen, Mark Baker, Robert John Aitken, David A Skerrett-Byrne, Antonio Silva Rodriguez, Francisco E Martín-Cano, Brett Nixon, Fernando J Peña, Maryse Delehedde, Nicolas Sergeant, and Zamira Gibb

The horse breeding industry relies upon optimal stallion fertility. Conventional sperm assessments provide limited information regarding ejaculate quality and are not individually predictive of fertilizing potential. The aim of this study was to harness mass spectrometry to compare the proteomic profiles of high- and low-quality stallion spermatozoa, with the ultimate goal of identifying fertility biomarker candidates. Extended stallion semen (n = 12) was fractionated using Percoll density gradients to isolate low-quality and high-quality sperm populations. Motility and morphological assessments were carried out, and proteomic analyses was conducted using UHPLC-MS/MS. High-quality spermatozoa recorded higher total (95.2 ± 0.52% vs 70.6 ± 4.20%; P ≤ 0.001) and progressive motilities (43.4 ± 3.42% vs 27.3 ± 4.32%; P ≤ 0.05), and a higher proportion of morphologically normal cells (50.2 ± 4.34% vs 38.8 ± 2.72%; P ≤ 0.05). In total, 1069 proteins were quantified by UHPLC-MS/MS, of which 22 proteins were significantly more abundant in the high-quality sperm population (P ≤ 0.05). A-kinase anchor protein 4 (AKAP4) and Hexokinase 1 (HK1) were considered possible biomarker candidates and their differential expression was confirmed by immunoblot. Protein expression was significantly correlated with total (AKAP4 R2 = 0.38, P ≤ 0.01; HK1 R2 = 0.46, P ≤ 0.001) and progressive motilities (AKAP4 R 2 = 0.51, P ≤ 0.001; HK1 R2 = 0.55, P ≤ 0.01), percentage rapid (AKAP4 R2 = 0.29, P ≤ 0.05; HK1 R2 = 0.58, P ≤ 0.001), straight-line velocity (HK1 R2 = 0.50, P ≤ 0.01) and straightness (HK1 R2 = 0.40, P ≤ 0.01). Furthermore, AKAP4 was highly susceptible to adduction by 4-hydroxynonenal (4HNE), which resulted in a global reduction in the phosphorylation profiles following capacitation. In conclusion, the proteomic profiles of high- and low-quality stallion spermatozoa differ substantially, and proteins such as AKAP4 and HK1 could serve as biomarkers of ejaculate quality.