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Open access

Huijuan Liao, Yan Chen, Yulong Li, Shaolong Xue, Mingfeng Liu, Ziyuan Lin, Yanyan Liu, Hsiao Chang Chan, Xiaohu Zhang and Huaqin Sun

Mutations in the cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator (CFTR) gene affect fertility in both sexes. However, the involvement of CFTR in regulating germ cell development remains largely unknown. Here, we used zebrafish model to investigate the role of CFTR in primordial germ cells (PGCs) development. We generated a cftr frameshift mutant zebrafish line using CRISPR/Cas9 technique and investigated the migration of PGCs during early embryo development. Our results showed that loss of Cftr impairs the migration of PGCs from dome stages onward. The migration of PGCs was also perturbed by treatment of CFTRinh-172, a gating-specific CFTR channel inhibitor. Moreover, defected PGCs migration in cftr mutant embryos can be partially rescued by injection of WT but not other channel-defective mutant cftr mRNAs. Finally, we observed the elevation of cxcr4b, cxcl12a, rgs14a and ca15b, key factors involved in zebrafish PGCs migration, in cftr-mutant zebrafish embryos. Taken together, the present study revealed an important role of CFTR acting as an ion channel in regulating PGCs migration during early embryogenesis. Defect of which may impair germ cell development through elevation of key factors involved in cell motility and response to chemotactic gradient in PGCs.

Free access

Bernadette C Baker, Dexter JL Hayes and Rebecca L Jones

Micronutrient deficiencies are common in pregnant women due to low dietary intake and increased requirements for fetal development. Low maternal micronutrient status is associated with a range of pregnancy pathologies involving placental dysfunction, including fetal growth restriction (FGR), small-for-gestational age (SGA), pre-eclampsia and preterm birth. However, clinical trials commonly fail to convincingly demonstrate beneficial effects of supplementation of individual micronutrients, attributed to heterogeneity and insufficient power, potential interactions and lack of mechanistic knowledge of effects on the placenta. We aimed to provide current evidence of relationships between selected micronutrients (vitamin D, vitamin A, iron, folate, vitamin B12) and adverse pregnancy outcomes, combined with understanding of actions on the placenta. Following a systematic literature search, we reviewed data from clinical, in vitro and in vivo studies of micronutrient deficiency and supplementation. Key findings are potential effects of micronutrient deficiencies on placental development and function, leading to impaired fetal growth. Studies in human trophoblast cells and rodent models provide insights into underpinning mechanisms. Interestingly, there is emerging evidence that deficiencies in all micronutrients examined induce a pro-inflammatory state in the placenta, drawing parallels with the inflammation detected in FGR, pre-eclampsia, stillbirth and preterm birth. Beneficial effects of supplementation are apparent in vitro and in animal models and for combined micronutrients in clinical studies. However, greater understanding of the roles of these micronutrients, and insight into their involvement in placental dysfunction, combined with more robust clinical studies, is needed to fully ascertain the potential benefits of supplementation in pregnancy.

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David A Landry, Lia Rossi-Perazza, Simon Lafontaine and Marc-André Sirard

The use of younger gamete donors in dairy cattle genetic selection programs significantly accelerates genetic gains by decreasing the interval between generations. Ovarian stimulation (OS) and the practice of follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) withdrawal, also known as coasting, are intensively used in pre-pubertal heifers without detrimental effects on subsequent reproductive performance but generally with lower embryo yields. However, recent data from embryo transfer programs showed similar embryo yields in younger and sexually mature animals but with a significant difference in the coasting period. The aim of the present study was to identify a set of granulosa cell biomarkers capable of distinguishing optimal follicle differentiation from late differentiation and atresia in order to assess the differences in coasting dynamics between pre- and post-pubertal donors. We integrated transcriptomic data sets from a public depository and used vote counting meta-analysis in order to elucidate the molecular changes occurring in granulosa cells during late follicle differentiation and atresia. The meta-analysis revealed the gene expression associated with follicle demise, and most importantly, identified potential biomarkers of that status in bovine granulosa cells. The comparison of the expression of six biomarkers between pre- and post-pubertal donors revealed that younger donors had more signs of atresia after the same period of coasting. We found different follicular dynamics following coasting in younger donors. It is possible that younger donors are less capable to sustain follicular survival most likely due to insufficient luteinizing hormone signaling. In summary, the pre-pubertal status influences follicular dynamics and reduces the oocyte developmental competence curve following OS and FSH withdrawal in heifers.

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Miguel J Xavier, Lisa A Mitchell, Kristen E McEwan, Rodney J Scott and R John Aitken

The Big Blue λSelect-cII selection system has been employed along with whole-exome sequencing to examine the susceptibility of the male germ line to mutation in two challenging situations (i) exposure to a chemotherapeutic regime including bleomycin, etoposide and cis-platinum (BEP) and (ii) the ageing process. A 3-week exposure to BEP induced complete azoospermia associated with a loss of developing germ cells and extensive vacuolization of Sertoli cell cytoplasm. Following cessation of treatment, spermatozoa first appeared in the caput epididymis after 6 weeks and by 12 weeks motile spermatozoa could be recovered from the cauda, although the count (P < 0.001) and motility (P < 0.01) of these cells were significantly reduced and superoxide generation was significantly elevated (P < 0.001). Despite this increase in free radical generation, no evidence of chromatin instability was detected in these spermatozoa. Furthermore, embryos obtained from females mated at this 12-week time point showed no evidence of an increased mutational load. Similarly, progressive ageing of Big Blue mice had no impact on the quality of the spermatozoa, fertility or mutation frequency in the offspring despite a significant increase in the mutational load carried by somatic tissues such as the liver (P < 0.05). We conclude that the male germ line is highly resistant to mutation in keeping with the disposable soma hypothesis, which posits that genetic integrity in the germ cells will be maintained at the expense of the soma, in light of the former’s sentinel position in safeguarding the stability of the genome.

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Ratana Lim, Gillian Barker and Martha Lappas

Preterm birth continues to be the leading cause of neonatal mortality and morbidities that can extend into adult life. Few treatment options stem from our incomplete understanding of the mechanisms of human labour and delivery. Activation of the inflammatory response in gestational tissues by inflammation and/or infection leads to the production of pro-inflammatory and pro-labour mediators, thus preterm birth. Interferon regulatory factor 5 (IRF5) has recently emerged as an important pro-inflammatory transcription factor involved in acute and chronic inflammation. The aims of this study were to determine the expression of IRF5 in human myometrium from labouring and non-labouring women, and whether IRF5 is involved in the genesis of pro-inflammatory and pro-labour mediators induced by pro-inflammatory cytokines or toll-like receptor (TLR) ligands. IRF5 mRNA and protein expression was significantly higher in human myometrium after spontaneous term labour, compared to non-labouring tissues. IRF5 mRNA expression was also significantly higher in primary myometrial cells treated with the pro-inflammatory cytokines IL1B or TNF. In primary myometrial cells, IRF5 knockdown by siRNA (siIRF5) was associated with significantly decreased expression and or secretion of pro-inflammatory cytokines (IL1A, IL6), chemokines (CXCL8, CCL2), adhesion molecules (ICAM1, VCAM1) and contraction-associated proteins PTGS2, PGF and PTGFR when in the presence of IL1B, TNF, fsl-1 (TLR2/6 ligand) or flagellin (TLR5 ligand). siIRF5-transfected cells also displayed decreased NF-κB RELA transcriptional activity in the presence of these preterm birth mediators. Our study suggests a novel role for IRF5 in the regulation of the inflammatory response in human myometrium.

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Lena Walenta, Nina Schmid, J Ullrich Schwarzer, Frank-Michael Köhn, Henryk F Urbanski, Rüdiger Behr, Leena Strauss, Matti Poutanen and Artur Mayerhofer

NLRP3 is part of the NLRP3 inflammasome and a global sensor of cellular damage. It was recently discovered in rodent Sertoli cells. We investigated NLRP3 in mouse, human and non-human primate (marmoset and rhesus macaque) testes, employing immunohistochemistry. Sertoli cells of all species expressed NLRP3, and the expression preceded puberty. In addition, peritubular cells of the adult human testes expressed NLRP3. NLRP3 and associated genes (PYCARD, CASP1, IL1B) were also found in isolated human testicular peritubular cells and the mouse Sertoli cell line TM4. Male infertility due to impairments of spermatogenesis may be related to sterile inflammatory events. We observed that the expression of NLRP3 was altered in the testes of patients suffering from mixed atrophy syndrome, in which tubules with impairments of spermatogenesis showed prominent NLRP3 staining. In order to explore a possible role of NLRP3 in male infertility, associated with sterile testicular inflammation, we studied a mouse model of male infertility. These human aromatase-expressing transgenic mice (AROM+) develop testicular inflammation and impaired spermatogenesis during aging, and the present data show that this is associated with strikingly elevated Nlrp3 expression in the testes compared to WT controls. Interference by aromatase inhibitor treatment significantly reduced increased Nlrp3 levels. Thus, throughout species NLRP3 is expressed by somatic cells of the testis, which are involved in testicular immune surveillance. We conclude that NLRP3 may be a novel player in testicular immune regulation.

Free access

Casey C Nestor, Michelle N Bedenbaugh, Stanley M Hileman, Lique M Coolen, Michael N Lehman and Robert L Goodman

Early work in ewes provided a wealth of information on the physiological regulation of pulsatile gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) secretion by internal and external inputs. Identification of the neural systems involved, however, was limited by the lack of information on neural mechanisms underlying generation of GnRH pulses. Over the last decade, considerable evidence supported the hypothesis that a group of neurons in the arcuate nucleus that contain kisspeptin, neurokinin B and dynorphin (KNDy neurons) are responsible for synchronizing secretion of GnRH during each pulse in ewes. In this review, we describe our current understanding of the neural systems mediating the actions of ovarian steroids and three external inputs on GnRH pulsatility in light of the hypothesis that KNDy neurons play a key role in GnRH pulse generation. In breeding season adults, estradiol (E2) and progesterone decrease GnRH pulse amplitude and frequency, respectively, by actions on KNDy neurons, with E2 decreasing kisspeptin and progesterone increasing dynorphin release onto GnRH neurons. In pre-pubertal lambs, E2 inhibits GnRH pulse frequency by decreasing kisspeptin and increasing dynorphin release, actions that wane as the lamb matures to allow increased pulsatile GnRH secretion at puberty. Less is known about mediators of undernutrition and stress, although some evidence implicates kisspeptin and dynorphin, respectively, in the inhibition of GnRH pulse frequency by these factors. During the anoestrus, inhibitory photoperiod acting via melatonin activates A15 dopaminergic neurons that innervate KNDy neurons; E2 increases dopamine release from these neurons to inhibit KNDy neurons and suppress the frequency of kisspeptin and GnRH release.

Free access

Adam J Ziecik, Emilia Przygrodzka, Beenu M Jalali and Monika M Kaczmarek

The new corpora lutea (CLs) in pigs are formed from the preovulatory follicles after the luteinizing hormone (LH) surge. However, total autonomy and independence of CLs from LH up to Day 12 of cycle has recently been questioned. Transformation of estrous cycle CL to CL of pregnancy initiated by embryonic signals requires not only the cessation of prostaglandin F2 (PGF) supply to the luteal tissue but also needs the CL to overcome luteolytic acquisition and/or changing its sensitivity to PGF during Days 12–14 of pregnancy. The luteolytic cascade is prevented by inhibition of lymphocyte infiltration and leucocyte recruitment, limitation of cell apoptosis, upregulation of pregnancy-associated genes and an enhanced antiluteolytic role of PGE2. Our ‘two-signal switch hypothesis’ highlights the importance of post PGF and PGE2 receptor signaling pathways activation in CLs during luteolysis and rescue. The ‘luteolytic switch’ involves increased expression of many regression mediators and activation of the post PTGFR signaling pathway. The ‘rescue switch’ initiated by embryonic signals – estradiol 17β and PGE2 – induces post PTGER2/4 pathway, turning the ‘luteolytic switch’ off and triggering activity of genes responsible for CL maintenance. In mid and late pregnancy, CLs are maintained by LH and the synergistic action of metabolic hormones. This paper provides an outline of recent views on CL regression, rescue and maintenance during pregnancy in pigs that conflict with previous paradigms and highlights new findings regarding the actions of prostaglandins, role of microRNAs (miRNA) and immune system and signaling pathways governing the life cycle of porcine CL.

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Joanna Korfanty, Tomasz Stokowy, Marek Chadalski, Agnieszka Toma-Jonik, Natalia Vydra, Piotr Widłak, Bartosz Wojtaś, Bartłomiej Gielniewski and Wieslawa Widlak

SPEN (spen family transcription repressor) is a nucleic acid-binding protein putatively involved in repression of gene expression. We hypothesized that SPEN could be involved in general downregulation of the transcription during the heat shock response in mouse spermatogenic cells through its interactions with chromatin. We documented predominant nuclear localization of the SPEN protein in spermatocytes and round spermatids, which was retained after heat shock. Moreover, the protein was excluded from the highly condensed chromatin. Chromatin immunoprecipitation experiments clearly indicated interactions of SPEN with chromatin in vivo. However, ChIP-Seq analyses did not reveal any strong specific peaks both in untreated and heat shocked cells, which might suggest dispersed localization of SPEN and/or its indirect binding to DNA. Using in situ proximity ligation assay we found close in vivo associations of SPEN with MTA1 (metastasis-associated 1), a member of the nucleosome remodeling complex with histone deacetylase activity, which might contribute to interactions of SPEN with chromatin.

Free access

H M McSwiggin and A M O’Doherty

Infertility is an often devastating diagnosis encountered by around one in six couples who are trying to conceive. Moving away from the long-held belief that infertility is primarily a female issue, it is now recognised that half, if not more, of these cases may be due to male factors. Recent evidence has suggested that epigenetic abnormalities in chromatin dynamics, DNA methylation or sperm-borne RNAs may contribute to male infertility. In light of advances in deep sequencing technologies, researchers have been able to increase the coverage and depth of sequencing results, which in turn has allowed more comprehensive analyses of spermatozoa chromatin dynamics and methylomes and enabled the discovery of new subsets of sperm RNAs. This review examines the most current literature related to epigenetic processes in the male germline and the associations of aberrant modifications with fertility and development.