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Jan Nevoral, Yaroslav Kolinko, Jiří Moravec, Tereza Žalmanová, Kristýna Hošková, Šárka Prokešová, Pavel Klein, Kamar Ghaibour, Petr Hošek, Miriama Štiavnická, Hedvika Řimnáčová, Zbyněk Tonar, Jaroslav Petr and Milena Králíčková

Bisphenols belong to the endocrine disruptors, affecting reproduction even in extremely low doses. Bisphenol S (BPS) has become widely used as a substitute for the earlier-used bisphenol A; however, its harmlessness is questionable. The aim of this study was to evaluate the effect of BPS on folliculogenesis and oocyte quality after in vivo exposure to low doses of BPS. Four-week-old ICR females (n = 16 in each experimental group) were exposed to vehicle control (VC), BPS1 (0.001 ng BPS.g/bw/day), BPS2 (0.1 ng.g/bw/day), BPS3 (10 ng.g/bw/day) and BPS4 (100 ng.g/bw/day) for 4 weeks. Ovaries were subjected to stereology and nano liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry (LC/MS). Simultaneously, metaphase II oocytes were obtained after pregnant mare serum gonadotrophin and human chorionic gonadotrophin administration, followed by immunostaining. In particular, mating and two-cell embryo flushing were performed. We observed that BPS decreases the amount of ovarian follicles and BPS2 (0.1 ng.g/bw/day) affects the volume of antral follicles. Accordingly, ovarian proteome is affected after BPS2 treatment. While BPS2 dosing results mainly in cytoskeletal damage in matured oocytes, the effects of BPS3 and BPS4 seem to be due instead to epigenetic alterations in oocytes. Arguably, these changes lead to observed affection of in vivo fertilization rate after BPS3 and BPS4 treatment. BPS significantly affects female reproduction astoundingly in extremely low doses. These findings underline the necessity to assess the risk of ongoing BPS exposure for public health.

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Davinia M White, Kate Hardy, Suzannah Lovelock and Stephen Franks

Low-dose, step-up gonadotropin is the treatment of choice for women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) who have not conceived after anti-oestrogen treatment and as an effective alternative to pulsatile GnRH in women with hypogonadotropic hypogonadism (HH). There has been, however, no large-scale, comparative study between the two groups using low-dose gonadotropins. Here, we performed a retrospective, comparative analysis, in a single clinic database, of efficacy and safety of induction of ovulation using low-dose gonadotropins in 364 women with PCOS and 80 women with HH. The rate of ovulation was high in both PCOS (83%) and HH (84%) but mono-follicular, ovulatory cycles were more prevalent in PCOS than in HH (77% vs 53%, P < 0.0001) and the proportion of cycles that were abandoned was higher in HH than in PCOS (25% vs 15%, P < 0.0001). The median threshold dose of gonadotropin required to induce ovulation was 75 IU/day in PCOS and 113 IU/day in HH (P < 0.001) and the range of doses was greater in HH women. Forty-nine percent of women with PCOS and 65% of those with HH conceived (more than 90% within 6 cycles of treatment) and had at least one pregnancy. Multiple pregnancies (all twins) occurred in only 4% of women with PCOS and 5% of those with HH. These findings emphasise the efficacy and safety of low-dose gonadotropin treatment for both clomiphene-resistant women with PCOS and those with HH. These results highlight the importance of choosing the more physiological approach of gonadotropin induction of ovulation in both groups as the most appropriate treatment, in preference to IVF.

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Jorine J L P Voss, Angela R Stermer, Rashin Ghaffari, Richa Tiwary and John H Richburg

The testis is an organ that maintains an immune suppressive environment. We previously revealed that exposure of pre-pubertal rats to an acute dose of a well-described Sertoli cell toxicant, mono-(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (MEHP), leads to an accumulation of CD11b+ immune cells in the testicular interstitial space that closely correlates with a robust incidence of germ cell (GC) apoptosis. Here, we test the hypothesis that the infiltrating immune cells contribute to GC apoptosis. Postnatal day 28 Fischer rats that received an oral dose of 700 mg/kg MEHP showed a significant infiltration of both CD11bc+/CD68+/CD163− macrophages and neutrophils. The infiltration peaked at 12 h, but had reduced by 48 h. Testicular macrophages from MEHP-treated rats showed significantly upregulated expression of Tnfa and Il6, and the Arg1/Nos2 ratio was reduced compared to controls. However, small increases in anti-inflammatory genes Il10 and Tgfb1 were also observed. Depletion of circulating monocytes with clodronate liposomes prior to MEHP treatment reduced the macrophage influx into the testis, but did not lower GC apoptosis. Additionally, depletion of neutrophils using an anti-polymorphonuclear cell antibody prevented both macrophage and neutrophil infiltration into the testis, and also did not affect GC apoptosis. Together, these results show that exposure to MEHP leads to a rapid and temporary influx of pro-inflammatory monocytes and neutrophils in the interstitium of the testis. However, with this acute dosing paradigm, these infiltrating leukocytes do not appear to contribute to MEHP-induced testicular GC apoptosis leaving the functional significance of these infiltrating cells in the pathogenesis of MEHP-induced testicular injury unresolved.

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Qingling Yang, Shanjun Dai, Xiaoyan Luo, Jing Zhu, Fangyuan Li, Jinhao Liu, Guidong Yao and Yingpu Sun

The quality of postovulatory metaphase II oocytes undergoes a time-dependent deterioration as a result of the aging process. Melatonin is considered to be an anti-aging agent. However, the underlying mechanisms of how melatonin improves the quality of postovulatory aged oocytes remain largely unclear. In this study, by using mouse model, we found that there were elevated reactive oxygen species levels and impaired mitochondrial function demonstrated by reduced mitochondrial membrane potential and increased mitochondrial aggregation in oocytes aged 24 h, accompanied by an increased number of meiotic errors, unregulated autophagy-related proteins and early apoptosis, which led to decreased oocyte quality and disrupted developmental competence. However, all of these events can be largely prevented by supplementing the oocyte culture medium with 10−3 M melatonin. Additionally, we found that the expression of sirtuin family members (SIRT1, 2 and 3) was dramatically reduced in aged oocytes. In addition, in vitro supplementation with melatonin significantly upregulated the expression of SIRT1 and antioxidant enzyme MnSOD, but this action was not observed for SIRT2 and SIRT3. Furthermore, the protective effect of melatonin on the delay of oocyte aging vanished when the SIRT1 inhibitor EX527 was used to simultaneously treat the oocytes with melatonin. Consistent with this finding, we found that the postovulatory oocyte aging process was markedly attenuated when the oocytes were treated with the SIRT1 activator SRT1720. In conclusion, our data strongly indicate that melatonin delays postovulatory mouse oocyte aging via a SIRT1–MnSOD-dependent pathway, which may provide a molecular mechanism support for the further application of melatonin in the assisted reproductive technology field.

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F Buchelly Imbachí, L Zalazar, J I Pastore, M B Greco, M Iniesta-Cuerda, J J Garde, A J Soler, V Ballarin and A Cesari

This work offers researchers the first version of an open-source sperm tracker software (Sperm Motility Tracker, V1.0) containing a novel suit of algorithms to analyze sperm motility using ram and buck sperm as models. The computer-assisted semen analysis is used in several publications with increasing trend worldwide in the last years, showing the importance of objective methodologies to evaluate semen quality. However, commercial systems are costly and versatility is constrained. In the proposed method, segmentation is applied and the tracking stage is performed by using individual Kalman filters and a simplified occlusion handling method. The tracking performance in terms of precision (number of true tracks), the percentage of fragmented paths and percentage of correctly detected particles were manually validated by three experts and compared with the performance of a commercial motility analyzer (Microptic’s SCA). The precision obtained with our sperm motility tracker was higher than the one obtained with a commercial software at the current acquisition frame rate of 25 fps (P < 0.0001), concomitantly with a similar percentage of fragmentized tracks (P = 0.0709) at sperm concentrations ranging 25–37 × 106 cells/mL. Moreover, our tracker was able to detect trajectories that were unseen by SCA. Kinetic values obtained by using both methods were contrasted. The higher values found were explained based on the better performance of our sperm tracker to report speed parameters for very fast motile sperm. To standardize results, acquisition conditions are suggested. This open-source sperm tracker software has a good plasticity allowing researchers to upgrade according requirements and to apply the tool for sperm from a variety of species.

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Cheryl S Rosenfeld, Angela B Javurek, Sarah A Johnson, Zhentian Lei, Lloyd W Sumner and Rex A Hess

Paternal environment can induce detrimental developmental origins of health and disease (DOHaD) effects in resulting offspring and even future descendants. Such paternal-induced DOHaD effects might originate from alterations in a possible seminal fluid microbiome (SFM) and composite metabolome. Seminal vesicles secrete a slightly basic product enriched with fructose and other carbohydrates, providing an ideal habitat for microorganisms. Past studies confirm the existence of a SFM that is influenced by genetic and nutritional status. Herein, we sought to determine whether treatment of male mice with a combination of antibiotics designed to target SFM induces metabolic alterations in seminal vesicle gland secretions (seminal fluid) and histopathological changes in testes and epididymides. Adult (10- to 12-week-old) National Institutes of Health (NIH) Swiss males (n = 10 per group) were treated with Clindamycin 0.06 mg/kg day, Unasyn (ampicillin/sulbactam) 40 mg/kg day and Baytril (enrofloxacin) 50 mg/kg day designed to target the primary bacteria within the SFM or saline vehicle alone. Fourteen-day antibiotic treatment of males induced metabolomic changes in seminal vesicles with inosine, xanthine and l-glutamic acid decreased but d-fructose increased in glandular secretions. While spermatogenesis was not affected in treated males, increased number of epididymal tubules showed cribriform growth in this group (7 antibiotic-treated males: 3 saline control males; P = 0.01). Antibiotic-treated males showed more severe cribriform cysts. Current findings suggest antibiotic treatment of male mice results in seminal fluid metabolome and epididymal histopathological alterations. It remains to be determined whether such changes compromise male reproductive function or lead to DOHaD effects in resulting offspring.

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Md Abdus Shabur Talukder, Ahmed Zaky Balboula, Takahiro Shirozu, Sung Woo Kim, Hiroki Kunii, Toshiyuki Suzuki, Tsukino Ito, Koji Kimura and Masashi Takahashi

In ruminants, interferon-tau (IFNT)-mediated expression of interferon-stimulated genes in peripheral blood leukocytes (PBLs) can indicate pregnancy. Recently, type 1 IFN-mediated activation of lysosomes and lysosomal cathepsins (CTSs) was observed in immune cells. This study investigated the status of lysosomal CTSs and lysosomes in PBLs collected from pregnant (P) and non-pregnant (NP) dairy cows, and conducted in vitro IFNT stimulation of NP blood leukocytes. Blood samples were collected 0, 7, 14 and 18 days post-artificial insemination, and the peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) and polymorphonuclear granulocytes (PMNs) separated. The fluorescent activity of CTSB and CTSK in PMNs significantly increased with the progress of pregnancy, especially on day 18. In vitro supplementation of IFNT significantly increased the activities of CTSB and CTSK in NP PBMCs and PMNs. CTSB expression was significantly higher in PBMCs and PMNs collected from P day-18 cows than from NP cows, whereas there was no difference in CTSK expression. IFNT increased CTSB expression but did not affect CTSK expression. Immunodetection showed an increase of CTSB in P day-18 PBMCs and PMNs. In vitro stimulation of IFNT increased CTSB in NP PBMCs and PMNs. Lysosomal acidification showed a significant increase in P day-18 PBMCs and PMNs. IFNT also stimulated lysosomal acidification. Expressions of lysosome-associated membrane protein (LAMP) 1 and LAMP2 were significantly higher in P day-18 PBMCs and PMNs. The results suggest that pregnancy-specific activation of lysosomal functions by CTS activation in blood leukocytes is highly associated with IFNT during maternal and fetal recognition of pregnancy.

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Stella Liong, Gillian Barker and Martha Lappas

Preeclampsia affects 5% of all pregnancies and is a serious disorder of pregnancy, characterised by high maternal blood pressure, placental hypoxia, fluid retention (oedema) and proteinuria. Women with preeclampsia are associated with exaggerated levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines, chemokines and anti-angiogenic factors such as soluble fms-like tyrosine kinase-1 (sFLT1). Studies in non-gestational tissues have described the bromodomain (BRD) and extraterminal family of proteins, in particular BRD4 to play a critical role in propagating inflammation and is currently a therapeutic target for treating cancer, lung inflammation and asthma. The aims of this study were to: (i) determine the effect of severe early-onset preeclampsia on placental BRD4 expression; (ii) the effect of loss of BRD4 function by siRNA-targeted knockdown or with the BRD inhibitor JQ1 in human primary trophoblast cells and human umbilical vein endothelial cells (HUVECs) on TNF-stimulated production of pro-inflammatory mediators, cell adhesion molecules and anti-angiogenic markers and (iii) the effect of BRD4 suppression on placental sFLT1 secretion under hypoxia conditions and in preeclampic placenta. BRD4 mRNA expression was significantly increased (sevenfold) in severe early-onset preeclampsia placenta. BRD4 silencing resulted in a significant reduction in TNF-induced IL6, CXCL8, CCL2, CXCL1 and sFLT1-e15a mRNA expression and IL6, CXCL8, CCL2, CXCL1 and sFLT1 secretion in primary trophoblast and HUVECs. Additionally, JQ1 treatment significantly reduced placental sFLT1 secretion under hypoxic conditions and in preterm preeclamptic placenta. In conclusion, these findings suggest BRD4 may play a central role in propagating inflammation and endothelial dysfunction associated with the pathophysiology of early-onset preeclampsia.

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Jason C Parks, Blair R McCallie, Alyssa L Patton, Zain A Al-Safi, Alex J Polotsky, Darren K Griffin, William B Schoolcraft and Mandy G Katz-Jaffe

Initial stages of implantation involve bi-directional molecular crosstalk between the blastocyst and endometrium. This study investigated an association between infertility etiologies, specifically advanced maternal age (AMA) and endometriosis, on the embryo-endometrial molecular dialogue prior to implantation. Co-culture experiments were performed with endometrial epithelial cells (EEC) and cryopreserved day 5 blastocysts (n = 41 ≥ Grade 3BB) donated from patients presenting with AMA or endometriosis, compared to fertile donor oocyte controls. Extracellular vesicles isolated from co-culture supernatant were analyzed for miRNA expression and revealed significant alterations correlating to AMA or endometriosis. Specifically, AMA resulted in 16 miRNAs with increased expression (P ≤ 0.05) and strong evidence for negative regulation toward 206 target genes. VEGFA, a known activator of cell adhesion, displayed decreased expression (P ≤ 0.05), validating negative regulation by 4 of these increased miRNAs: miR-126; 150; 29a; 29b (P ≤ 0.05). In endometriosis patients, a total of 10 significantly altered miRNAs displayed increased expression compared to controls (miR-7b; 9; 24; 34b; 106a; 191; 200b; 200c; 342-3p; 484) (P ≤ 0.05), targeting 1014 strong evidence-based genes. Three target genes of miR-106a (CDKN1A, E2F1 and RUNX1) were independently validated. Functional annotation analysis of miRNA-target genes revealed enriched pathways for both infertility etiologies, including disrupted cell cycle regulation and proliferation (P ≤ 0.05). These extracellular vesicle-bound secreted miRNAs are key transcriptional regulators in embryo-endometrial dialogue and may be prospective biomarkers of implantation success. One of the limitations of this study is that it was a stimulated, in vitro model and therefore may not accurately reflect the in-vivo environment.

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Heyam Hayder, Jacob O’Brien, Uzma Nadeem and Chun Peng

MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are small non-coding single-stranded RNAs that are integral to a wide range of cellular processes mainly through the regulation of translation and mRNA stability of their target genes. The placenta is a transient organ that exists throughout gestation in mammals, facilitating nutrient and gas exchange and waste removal between the mother and the fetus. miRNAs are expressed in the placenta, and many studies have shown that miRNAs play an important role in regulating trophoblast differentiation, migration, invasion, proliferation, apoptosis, vasculogenesis/angiogenesis and cellular metabolism. In this review, we provide a brief overview of canonical and non-canonical pathways of miRNA biogenesis and mechanisms of miRNA actions. We highlight the current knowledge of the role of miRNAs in placental development. Finally, we point out several limitations of the current research and suggest future directions.