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Momoe Ito, Masato Unou, Toshiya Higuchi, Shuhei So, Masahiko Ito, and Keiichiro Yogo

Solute carrier 22a member 14 (SLC22A14) plays a critical role in male infertility in mice. We previously revealed that one of the causes of infertility is impaired capacitation. However, the molecular mechanism remained unclear. Here, we show that the influx of HCO3 , a trigger of capacitation, is impaired and intracellular pH (pHi) is decreased in the sperm of Slc22a14 knockout (KO) mice. While intracellular cAMP concentration did not increase during capacitation in Slc22a14 KO spermatozoa, HCO3 -dependent soluble adenylate cyclase activity was normal, and the addition of 8-bromo cAMP rescued the decreased protein tyrosine phosphorylation. In addition, the pHi of Slc22a14 KO sperm was lower than that of WT sperm and did not increase after the addition of HCO3 . Although its relationship to the regulation of pHi is unknown, transmembrane protein 225, a possible protein phosphatase inhibitor, was found to be decreased in Slc22a14 KO sperm. The decreased in vitro fertilization rate of Slc22a14 KO sperm was partially rescued by an increase in the pHi and the addition of 8-bromo cAMP. These results suggest that SLC22A14 is involved in capacitation through the regulation of HCO3 transport and pHi.

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Kashmira Bane, Junita Desouza, Asma Rojewale, Rajendra Katkam, Gwendolyn Fernandes, Raj Sawant, Uddhavraj Dudhedia, Neeta Warty, Anahita Chauhan, Uddhav Chaudhari, Rahul Gajbhiye, and Geetanjali Sachdeva

Recent data suggest that the DNA damage response (DDR) is altered in the eutopic endometrium (EE) of women with endometriosis and this probably ensues in response to higher DNA damage encountered by the EE in endometriosis. DDR operates in a tissue-specific manner and involves different pathways depending on the type of DNA lesions. Among these pathways, the non-homologous end joining (NHEJ) pathway plays a critical role in the repair of double-stranded DNA breaks. The present study was undertaken to explore whether NHEJ is affected in the EE of women with endometriosis. Towards this, we focused on the X-Ray Repair Cross-Complementing 4 (XRCC4) protein, one of the core components of the NHEJ pathway. Endometrial XRCC4 protein levels in the mid-proliferative phase were found significantly (p<0.05) downregulated in women with endometriosis, compared to control women. Investigation of a microarray-based largest dataset in the GEO database (GSE51981) revealed a similar trend at the transcript level in the EE of women with endometriosis, compared to control women. Further in-vitro studies were undertaken to explore the effects of H2O2-induced oxidative stress on DNA damage, as assessed by γ-H2AFX and 8-hydroxy-2’-deoxyguanosine (8-OHdG) immunolocalization, and XRCC4 protein levels in endometrial stromal (ThESCs) and epithelial (Ishikawa) cells. A significant decrease in XRCC4 protein levels and significantly higher localization of γ-H2AFX and 8-OHdG were evident in ThESCs and Ishikawa cells experiencing oxidative stress. Overall, the study demonstrates that the endometrial XRCC4 expression is dysregulated in women with endometriosis and this could be due to higher oxidative stress in endometriosis.

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Morgane Robles, Shavahn C Loux, Amanda M de Mestre, and Pascale Chavatte-Palmer

Equine placental development is a long process with unique features. Implantation occurs around 40 days of gestation (dpo) with the presence of a transient invasive placenta from 25-35dpo to 100-120dpo. The definitive non-invasive placenta remains until term (330d). This definitive placenta is diffuse and epitheliochorial, exchanging nutrients, gas and waste with the endometrium through microvilli, called microcotyledons. These are lined by an external layer of haemotrophic trophoblast. Moreover, histotrophic exchange remains active through the histotrophic trophoblast located along the areolae. Placental development is dependent on the maternal environment that can be affected by several factors (e.g., nutrition, metabolism, age, embryo technologies, pathologies) that may affect foetal development as well as long-term offspring health. The first section of the review focuses on normal placental development as well as definitive placental structure. Differences between the various areas of the placenta are also highlighted. The latter sections provide an overview of the effects of the maternal environment and reproductive pathologies, respectively, on trophoblast/placental gene expression and structure. So far, only pre-implantation and late gestation/term data are available, which demonstrate an important placental plasticity in response to environmental variation, with genes involved in oxidative stress and tissue differentiation mostly involved in the pre-implantation period, whereas genes involved in foeto-placental growth and nutrient transfers are mostly perturbed at term.

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Sha-Ting Lei, Ming-Qing Li, Yan-Ling Cao, Shu-Hui Hou, Hai-Yan Peng, Dong Zhao, and Jing Sun

Endometriosis (EMS) is a chronic benign inflammatory disease characterized by the growth of endometrial-like tissue in aberrant locations outside of the uterine cavity. Angiogenesis and abnormal immune responses are the fundamental requirements of endometriotic lesion survival in the peritoneal cavity. Follistatin-like I (FSTL1) is a secreted glycoprotein that exhibits varied expression levels in cardiovascular disease, cancer and arthritis. However, the role of FSTL1 in the development of EMS remains to be fully elucidated. Results of the present study demonstrated that the expression of FSTL1 was significantly increased in ectopic endometrial stromal cells (ESCs) and peritoneal fluid from patients with EMS, compared to the control group. Both conditions of hypoxia and estrogen treatment induced human ESCs to produce increased levels of FSTL1 and disco-interacting protein 2 homolog A (DIP2A). Furthermore, the expression levels of DIP2A, IL8 and IL1β were increased in FSTL1 overexpressed HESCs. Additionally, FSTL1 treatment increased the proliferation of HUVECs in a dose-dependent manner in vitro and markedly increased the tube formation of HUVECs. Moreover, treatment with FSTL1 facilitated M1 polarization of macrophages, increased the secretion of proinflammatory factors and inhibited the expression of scavenger receptor CD36. Results of the present study suggested that the elevated expression of FSTL1 may play a key role in accelerating the development of EMS via enhancing the secretion of proinflammatory factors and promoting angiogenesis.

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Hui-Hui Shen, Cheng-Jie Wang, Xin-Yan Zhang, Yan-Ran Sheng, Shao-Liang Yang, Zi-Meng Zheng, Jia-Lu Shi, Xue-Min Qiu, Feng Xie, and Ming-Qing Li

Heme oxygenase 1 (HO-1, encoded by the HMOX1 gene) is the rate-limiting enzyme that catalyzes heme degradation, and it has been reported to exert antioxidative effects. Recently, decidualization has been reported to confer resistance to environmental stress signals, protecting against oxidative stress. However, the effects and regulatory mechanism of HO-1 in decidual stromal cells (DSCs) during early pregnancy remain unknown. Here, we verified that the levels of HO-1 and heme in DSCs are increased compared with those in endometrial stromal cells. Additionally, the upregulation of HIF1A expression led to increased HMOX1 expression in DSCs possibly via nuclear factor erythroid 2-related factor (encoded by the NFE2L2 gene). However, addition of the competitive HO-1 inhibitor zinc protoporphyrin IX resulted in an increase in HIF1A expression. Hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) induced the production of reactive oxygen species (ROS), decreased the cell viability of DSCs in vitro, and upregulated the level of heme. As an HO-1 inducer, cobalt protoporphyrin IX decreased ROS production and significantly reversed the inhibitory effect of H2O2 on cell viability. More importantly, patients with unexplained spontaneous abortion had low levels of HO-1 that were insufficient to protect against oxidative stress. This study suggests that the upregulation of HO-1 expression via HIF1A protects DSCs against excessive heme-mediated oxidative stress. Furthermore, the excessive oxidative stress injury and impaired viability of DSCs associated with decreased HO-1 expression should be associated with the occurrence and/or development of spontaneous abortion.

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Zoe C Johnston, Franz S Gruber, Sean G Brown, Neil R Norcross, Jason Swedlow, Ian H Gilbert, and Christopher L R Barratt

Despite recent advances in male reproductive health research, there remain many elements of male infertility where our understanding is incomplete. Consequently, diagnostic tools and treatments for men with sperm dysfunction, other than medically assisted reproduction, are limited. On the other hand, the gaps in our knowledge of the mechanisms which underpin sperm function have hampered the development of male non-hormonal contraceptives. The study of mature spermatozoa is inherently difficult. They are a unique and highly specialised cell type which does not actively transcribe or translate proteins and cannot be cultured for long periods of time or matured in vitro. One large-scale approach to both increasing the understanding of sperm function and the discovery and development of compounds that can modulate sperm function is to directly observe responses to compounds with phenotypic screening techniques. These target agnostic approaches can be developed into high-throughput screening platforms with the potential to drastically increase advances in the field. Here, we discuss the rationale and development of high-throughput phenotypic screening platforms for mature human spermatozoa and the multiple potential applications these present, as well as the current limitations and leaps in our understanding and the capabilities needed to overcome them. Further development and use of these technologies could lead to the identification of compounds which positively or negatively affect sperm cell motility or function or novel platforms for toxicology or environmental chemical testing among other applications. Ultimately, each of these potential applications is also likely to increase the understanding within the field of sperm biology.

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Ourlad Alzeus G Tantengco, Talar Kechichian, Kathleen L Vincent, Richard B Pyles, Paul Mark B Medina, and Ramkumar Menon

Ureaplasma parvum is a commensal bacterium in the female reproductive tract but has been associated with pregnancy complications such as preterm prelabor rupture of membranes and preterm birth (PTB). However, the pathologic effects of U. parvum in the cervix, which prevents ascending infections during pregnancy, are still poorly understood. To determine the impact of U. parvum on the cervix, ectocervical (ecto) and endocervical (endo) epithelial and stromal cells were incubated with U. parvum. Macrophages were also tested as a proxy for cervical macrophages to determine the antigenicity of U. parvum. The effects of U. parvum, including influence on cell cycle and cell death, antimicrobial peptide (AMP) production, epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT), and inflammatory cytokine levels, were assessed. U. parvum colonized cervical epithelial and stromal cells 4 h post-infection. Like uninfected control, U. parvum neither inhibited cell cycle progression and nor caused cell death in cervical epithelial and stromal cells. U. parvum increased the production of the AMPs cathelicidin and human β-defensin 3 and exhibited weak signs of EMT evidenced by decreased cytokeratin 18 and increased vimentin expression in cervical epithelial cells. U. parvum induced a proinflammatory environment (cytokines) and increased MMP-9 in cervical epithelial cells but promoted pro- and anti-inflammatory response in cervical stromal cells and macrophages. U. parvum may colonize the cervical epithelial layer, but induction of AMPs and anti-inflammatory response may protect the cervix and may prevent ascending infections that can cause PTB. These findings suggest that U. parvum is a weak inducer of inflammation in the cervix.

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Fernanda L. de la Cruz Borthiry, Julieta Schander, Maximiliano Cella, Jimena S. Beltrame, Ana María Franchi, and María L. Ribeiro

Aim: Implantation-related events are crucial for pregnancy success. In particular, defects in vascular remodeling at the maternal-fetal interface are associated with spontaneous miscarriage and recurrent pregnancy loss. Physical activity and therapies oriented to reduce stress improve pregnancy outcomes. In animal models, environmental stimulation and enrichment are associated with enhanced well-being, cognitive function and stress resilience. Here we studied whether exposure of BALB/c mice to an enriched environment (EE) regulates crucial events during early gestation at the maternal-fetal interface.

Method: Pregnant BALB/c mice were exposed to the EE that combines non-invasive stimuli from the sensory pathway with voluntary physical activity. The pregnancy rate was evaluated. Implantation sites were investigated microscopically and macroscopically. Vascular adaptation parameters at the maternal-fetal interface were analyzed.

Results: We found that exposure to the EE prevented pregnancy loss between gestational days 7 and 15. Also, it increased the diameter of the uterine artery and decreased the wall:lumen ratio of the mesometrial decidual vessels, suggesting that EE exposure promotes vascular remodeling. Moreover, it increased nitric oxide synthase activity and inducible nitric oxide synthase expression, as well as prostaglandin F2α production and endoglin expression in the implantation sites.

Conclusion: Exposure of pregnant females to the EE regulates uterine physiology, promoting vascular remodeling during early gestation. These adaptations might contribute to preventing embryo loss. Our results highlight the importance of the maternal environment for pregnancy success. The design of an “EE-like” protocol for humans could be considered as a new non-pharmacologic strategy to prevent implantation failure and recurrent miscarriage.

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Jovana Joksimovic Jovic, Nikola Jovic, Jasmina Sretenovic, Vladimir Zivkovic, Maja Nikolic, Jovan Rudic, Verica Milošević, Nataša Ristić, Kristina Andric, Tijana Dimkic Tomic, Biljana Milicic, and Vladimir Jakovljevic

Numerous evidence implies complex interrelations between polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and hypertension (HT) in reproductive-age women. In this study, we aimed to investigate the potential strain differences in ovarian morphology, hemodynamic, and biochemical characteristics in an androgen-induced PCOS rat model. A total of 24 rats of 3 weeks old (12 Wistar Kyoto – WK and 12 spontaneously hypertensive rats – SHR) were divided into four groups: WK, WK PCOS, SHR, and SHR PCOS. PCOS was induced by daily s.c. injections of testosterone enanthate (1 mg/100 g body weight) administered for 5 weeks. PCOS induction led to estrus cyclicity cessation, cystic ovarian appearance, and sex hormones disturbances in both strains. The morphometric parameters in ovaries were altered in a manner of PCOS-related changes in both strains (higher number in preantral, atretic, and cystic follicles). Ultrasonographically, a significant decrease in ovarian volume (OV) was registered in PCOS groups but also in SHR compared to WK rats. All blood pressure parameters were higher in SHR compared to WK. PCOS modeling increased systolic, mean arterial, and pulse pressure in WK strain, while in SHR, only mean arterial and pulse pressure were higher. Alterations in oxidative stress parameters could provide a molecular basis for PCOS-related changes: in PCOS groups, thiobarbituric acid reactive substance and superoxide anion radical levels were higher in both strains, while superoxide dismutase and glutathione were significantly lowered.