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Cuihong Zheng, Thippeswamy Gulappa, Bindu Menon and K M J Menon

Ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS) is a common complication of ovarian stimulation associated with the administration of human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) during assisted reproduction. We have determined the expression of luteinizing hormone receptor (Lhcgr) mRNA, vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), and its transcription factor, HIF1α, during the periovulatory period in a rodent model of OHSS and compared these results with normal ovulatory periods. These results showed that the downregulation of Lhcgr mRNA in response to conditions that mimic preovulatory LH surge was significantly impaired in the OHSS group compared to the complete downregulation seen in the control group. Most importantly, the downregulation of luteinizing hormone receptor mRNA expression following hCG administration was sustained in the control group up to 48 h, whereas it remained at significantly higher levels in the OHSS group. This impairment of hCG-induced Lhcgr downregulation in the OHSS group was accompanied by significantly elevated levels of VEGF and its transcription factor, HIF1α. Furthermore, the downregulation of Lhcgr that occurs in response to a preovulatory LH surge in normal cycles was accompanied by low levels of VEGF. This study shows that, while downregulation of Lhcgr as well as low VEGF levels are seen in response to a preovulatory LH surge in normal ovarian cycle, impaired Lhcgr downregulation and elevated VEGF levels were found in the OHSS group.

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Naoki Hirose, Sayaka Wakayama, Rei Inoue, Junya Ito, Masatoshi Ooga and Teruhiko Wakayama

Artificial oocyte activation is important for assisted reproductive technologies, such as fertilization with round spermatids (ROSI) or the production of cloned offspring by somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT). Recently, phospholipase Cζ (PLCζ)-cRNA was used to mimic the natural process of fertilization, but this method required the serial injection of PLCζ-cRNA and was found to cause damage to the manipulated oocytes. Here we tried to generate offspring derived from oocytes that were fertilized using round spermatid or somatic cell nuclear transfer with the co-injection of PLCζ-cRNA. After co-injecting round spermatids and 20 ng/µL of PLCζ-cRNA into the oocytes, most of them became activated, but the activation process was delayed by more than 1 h. With the co-injection method, the rate of blastocyst formation in ROSI embryos was higher (64%) compared with that of the serial injection method (55%). On another note, when SCNT was performed using the co-injection method, the cloned offspring were obtained with a higher success rate compared with the serial-injection method. However, in either ROSI or SCNT embryos, the birth rate of offspring via the co-injection method was similar to the Sr activation method. The epigenetic status of ROSI and SCNT zygotes that was examined showed no significant difference among all activation methods. The results indicated that although the PLCζ-cRNA co-injection method did not improve the production rate of offspring, this method simplified oocyte activation with less damage, and with accurate activation time in individual oocytes, it can be useful for the basic study of oocyte activation and development.

Open access

Marta Almada, Lia Costa, Bruno Fonseca, Patrícia Alves, Jorge Braga, Daniela Gonçalves, Natércia Teixeira and Georgina Correia-da-Silva

Proliferation, differentiation and apoptosis of trophoblast cells are required for normal placental development. Impairment of those processes may lead to pregnancy-related diseases. Disruption of endoplasmic reticulum (ER) homeostasis has been associated with several reproductive pathologies including recurrent pregnancy loss and preeclampsia. In the unfolded protein response (UPR), specific ER-stress signalling pathways are activated to restore ER homeostasis, but if the adaptive response fails, apoptosis is triggered. Protein kinase RNA-like endoplasmic reticulum kinase (PERK), inositol-requiring enzyme 1 (IRE1) and Activating transcription factor 6 (ATF6) are central players in UPR and in ER-stress-induced apoptosis, as well as downstream transcription factors, as C/EBP homologous protein (CHOP). Our previous studies have shown that the endocannabinoid 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG) modulates trophoblast cell turnover. Nevertheless, the role of ER-stress on 2-AG induced apoptosis and cannabinoid signalling in trophoblast has never been addressed. In this work, we used BeWo cells and human primary cytotrophoblasts isolated from term-placenta. The expression of ER-stress markers was analysed by qRT-PCR and Western blotting. ROS generation was assessed by fluorometric methods, while apoptosis was detected by the evaluation of caspase -3/-7 activities and Poly (ADP-ribose) polymerase (PARP) cleavage. Our findings indicate that 2-AG is able to induce ER-stress and apoptosis. Moreover, the eukaryotic initiation factor 2 (eIF2α)/CHOP pathway involved in ER-stress-induced apoptosis is triggered through a mechanism dependent on cannabinoid receptor CB2 activation. The results bring novel insights on the importance of ER-stress and cannabinoid signalling on 2-AG mechanisms of action in placenta.

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Vishakha Mahajan, Diana Osavlyuk, Philip C Logan, Satya Amirapu and Anna P Ponnampalam

DNA methyltransferases (DNMTs) and ten-eleven translocation proteins (TETs) facilitate methylation and hydroxymethylation of DNA, respectively. DNMTs are widely studied with conflicting results on their regulation in the endometrium. While the role of TETs in the endometrium remains relatively unexplored. Deregulated expression of TETs and DNMTs are associated with endometrial pathologies. The aim of this study is to characterize the temporal TET expression in endometrium and to determine the hormonal regulation of TETs in comparison to DNMTs. mRNA expressions were quantified by real-time PCR in endometrial tissues from cycling women and localization was determined by immunohistochemistry. Hormonal regulation was investigated in endometrial epithelial and stromal cell lines following a 24 and 48 h treatment cycle. TET1 and 3 mRNA expressions were significantly upregulated in the mid-secretory phase. TET protein expression was ubiquitous in endometrial epithelium throughout the menstrual cycle except during the late-secretory phase, while stromal staining was scattered. TET1 mRNA was significantly upregulated in response to estrogen in stromal cells. Transcriptions of all three TETs were induced in response to progesterone treatment in epithelial cells. Only DNMT3b in epithelial cells and DNMT1 in stromal cells were significantly upregulated upon 24-h estrogen exposure following a significant decrease of DNMT1 when treated with 24 h of estrogen and progesterone. This study suggests that TETs are expressed in a cell-specific, dynamic manner in the endometrium and are responsive to steroid hormones. Investigating the role of TETs individually and with respect to DNMTs, will help to elucidate gene regulatory mechanisms in endometrial biology and pathologies.

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Niamh Lewis, Katrin Hinrichs, Henry J Leese, Caroline McGregor Argo, Daniel R Brison and Roger G Sturmey

The use of in vitro embryo production in the horse is increasing in clinical and research settings; however, protocols are yet to be optimised. Notably, the two most commonly used base media for in vitro maturation (IVM) supply glucose at markedly different concentrations: physiological (5.6 mM, M199) or supraphysiological (17 mM, DMEM/F-12). Exposure to high glucose has detrimental effects on oocytes and early embryos in many mammalian species, but the impact has not yet been examined in the horse. To address this, we compared the energy metabolism of equine COCs matured in M199-based maturation medium containing either 5.6 or 17 mM glucose, as well as expression of key genes in oocytes and cumulus cells. Oocytes were fertilised by ICSI and cultured. Analysis of spent medium revealed that COC glucose consumption and production of lactate and pyruvate were similar between treatments. However, the glycolytic index was decreased at 17 mM and analysis of mitochondrial function of COCs revealed that IVM in 17 mM glucose was associated with decreased ATP-coupled respiration and increased non-mitochondrial respiration compared to that for 5.6 mM glucose. We also found that the metabolic enzyme lactate dehydrogenase-A (LDHA) was downregulated in cumulus cells of oocytes that completed IVM in 17 mM glucose. There was no difference in maturation or blastocyst rates. These data indicate that COC mitochondrial function and gene expression are altered by high glucose concentration during IVM. Further work is needed to determine if these changes are associated with developmental changes in the resulting offspring.

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Satoko Kanzaki, Shiori Tamura, Toshiaki Ito, Mizuki Wakabayashi, Koji Saito, Shigeki Kato, Yasutaka Ohta, Yoichi Sekita and Tohru Kimura

Nucleotide-binding oligomerization domain, leucine-rich repeat and pyrin domain-containing proteins (NRLPs) are central components of the inflammasome. Accumulating evidence has shown that a reproductive clade of NRLPs is predominantly expressed in oocyte to cleavage stage embryos and participates in mammalian preimplantation development as a component of a multiprotein complex known as the subcortical maternal complex (SCMC). Nlrp9s belong to the reproductive class of NLRPs; Nlrp9b is unique in acting as an inflammasome against rotavirus in intestines. Here we generated mice carrying mutations in all three members of the Nlrp9a/b/c gene (Nlrp9 triple mutant (TMut) mice). When crossed with WT males, the Nlrp9 TMut females were fertile, but deliveries with fewer pups were increased in the mutants. Consistent with this, blastocyst development was retarded and lethality to the preimplantation embryos increased in the Nlrp9 TMut females in vivo. Under in vitro culture conditions, the fertilized eggs from the Nlrp9 TMut females exhibited developmental arrest at the two-cell stage, accompanied by asymmetric cell division. By contrast, double-mutant (DMut) oocytes (any genetic combination) did not exhibit the two-cell block in vitro, showing the functional redundancy of Nlrp9a/b/c. Finally, Nlrp9 could bind to components of the SCMC. These results show that Nlrp9 functions as an immune or reproductive NLRP in a cell-type-dependent manner.

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Nazife Ulker, Ahmet Yardimci, Nalan Kaya Tektemur, Ozgur Bulmus, Seyma Ozer Kaya, Funda Gulcu Bulmus, Gaffari Turk, Mete Ozcan and Sinan Canpolat

Physical exercise and body muscle/fat mass are known to affect the endocrine system, puberty onset and reproductive health. However, the potential effects of irisin, an adipo-myokine and exercise-induced hormone, have not yet been fully elucidated on reproductive maturation. Therefore, the present study aimed to determine the effects of irisin administration on pubertal maturation and reproductive system in female and male rats. Daily i.p. injection of irisin (100 ng/kg; from postnatal day 21 for about 10 weeks) delayed the ages at the vaginal opening (as an external index of puberty onset) and first estrus. Furthermore, continuous administration of irisin to female rats caused a significant decrease in serum follicle-stimulating hormone levels and an increase in serum luteinizing hormone and 17β-estradiol levels, as well as causing histopathological changes in the ovarian tissue. On the contrary, irisin administration to male rats did not modify the timing of puberty, as estimated by age at preputial separation. However, chronic exposure to irisin produced significant increases in serum luteinizing hormone and testosterone levels and also sperm concentration and seminiferous tubule diameter in male rats. In conclusion, irisin exposure has different effects on both pubertal maturation and reproductive system in female and male rats. The present findings reveal that chronic irisin exposure may lead to disorders in the female reproductive system and may have androgenic potential on the hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal axis in males.

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Zheng Ao, Ting Gu, Huaxing Zhao, Junsong Shi, Enqin Zheng, Gengyuan Cai, Zhenfang Wu and Zicong Li

Cloned pigs generated by the somatic cell transfer nuclear (SCNT) technique are highly valuable for agriculture, biomedicine, and life sciences. However, the neonatal mortality rate of cloned pigs is very high. The reasons causing the massive loss of cloned pigs during their neonatal ages are unclear. In the present study, we found that the neonatal death of cloned pigs was associated with aberrant purine metabolism, impaired renal morphology and function, and decreased hepatic Hprt1 expression. The downregulation of Hprt1, a key purine metabolism regulation gene, in the liver was responsible for the elevation of an important purine metabolite, uric acid, in the serum, causing abnormalities in kidney morphology and function and leading to death of neonatal cloned pigs. This study provided insights into the pathophysiological mechanisms underlying the neonatal death of clone pigs, and results will help improve their survival rate.

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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.

Free access

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.