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Hong-Lan Song, Tai-Hang Liu, Yong-Heng Wang, Fang-Fang Li, Ling-Ling Ruan, Enoch Appiah Adu-Gyamfi, Si-Chen Hu, Xue-Mei Chen, Yu-Bin Ding, and Li-Juan Fu

The syncytiotrophoblast, derived from cytotrophoblast fusion, is responsible for maternal–fetal exchanges, secretion of pregnancy-related hormones, and fetal defense against pathogens. Inadequate cytotrophoblast fusion can lead to pregnancy disorders, such as preeclampsia and fetal growth restriction. However, little is known about the mechanism of cytotrophoblast fusion in both physiological and pathological pregnancy conditions. In this study, P57kip2 (P57), a cell cycle-dependent kinase inhibitor that negatively regulates the cell cycle, was found to be up-regulated during the process of syncytialization in both primary trophoblast cells and BeWo cells. Co-immunofluorescence with proliferation markers Ki67 and Cyclin-CDK factors further showed that P57 specifically localizes in the post-mitotic cytotrophoblast subtype of the early pregnancy villi. Overexpression of P57 promoted trophoblast syncytialization by arresting the cell cycle at the G1/G0 phase and inhibiting proliferation. Blocking of the cell cycle through a serum starvation culture resulted in an enhancement of cytotrophoblast fusion and the up-regulation of P57. In both spontaneous cytotrophoblast fusion and forskolin-induced BeWo cell fusion models, an initial up-regulation of P57 was observed followed by a subsequent down-regulation. These findings indicate that proper expression of P57 at cytotrophoblast differentiation nodes plays an important role in trophoblast syncytialization.

Open access

Yu-chen Zhang, Xiao-li Qin, Xiao-ling Ma, Hui-qin Mo, Shi Qin, Cheng-xi Zhang, Xiao-wei Wei, Xue-qing Liu, Yan Zhang, Fu-ju Tian, and Yi Lin

Preeclampsia is a gestational hypertensive disease; however, preeclampsia remains poorly understood. Bioinformatics analysis was applied to find novel genes involved in the pathogenesis of preeclampsia and identified CLDN1 as one of the most differentially expressed genes when comparing patients with preeclampsia and healthy controls. The results of the qRT-PCR, Western blotting and immunohistochemistry experiments demonstrated that CLDN1 was significantly downregulated in the chorionic villi in samples from patients with preeclampsia. Furthermore, knockdown of CLDN1 in HTR-8/SVneo cells resulted in the inhibition of proliferation and induction of apoptosis, and overexpression of CLDN1 reversed these effects. In addition, RNA-seq assays demonstrated that the gene BIRC3 is potentially downstream of CLDN1 and is involved in the regulation of apoptosis. Knockdown of CLDN1 confirmed that the expression level of BIRC3 was obviously decreased and was associated with a significant increase in cleaved PARP. Interestingly, the apoptotic effect in CLDN1 knockdown cells was rescued after BIRC3 overexpression. Overall, these results indicate that a decrease in CLDN1 inhibits BIRC3 expression and increases cleaved PARP levels thus participating in the pathogenesis of preeclampsia.

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Shinnosuke Suzuki, John R McCarrey, and Brian P Hermann

Initiation of spermatogonial differentiation in the mouse testis begins with the response to retinoic acid (RA) characterized by activation of KIT and STRA8 expression. In the adult, spermatogonial differentiation is spatiotemporally coordinated by a pulse of RA every 8.6 days that is localized to stages VII–VIII of the seminiferous epithelial cycle. Dogmatically, progenitor spermatogonia that express retinoic acid receptor gamma (RARG) at these stages will differentiate in response to RA, but this has yet to be tested functionally. Previous single-cell RNA-seq data identified phenotypically and functionally distinct subsets of spermatogonial stem cells (SSCs) and progenitor spermatogonia, where late progenitor spermatogonia were defined by expression of RARG and Dppa3. Here, we found late progenitor spermatogonia (RARGhigh KIT−) were further divisible into two subpopulations based on Dppa3 reporter expression (Dppa3-ECFP or Dppa3-EGFP) and were observed across all stages of the seminiferous epithelial cycle. However, nearly all Dppa3+ spermatogonia were differentiating (KIT+) late in the seminiferous epithelial cycle (stages X–XII), while Dppa3− late progenitors remained abundant, suggesting that Dppa3+ and Dppa3− late progenitors differentially responded to RA. Following acute RA treatment (2–4 h), significantly more Dppa3+ late progenitors induced KIT, including at the midpoint of the cycle (stages VI–IX), than Dppa3− late progenitors. Subsequently, single-cell analyses indicated a subset of Dppa3+ late progenitors expressed higher levels of Rxra, which we confirmed by RXRA whole-mount immunostaining. Together, these results indicate RARG alone is insufficient to initiate a spermatogonial response to RA in the adult mouse testis and suggest differential RXRA expression may discriminate responding cells.

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Hossam El-Sheikh Ali, Kirsten E Scoggin, Rebecca Ruby, Alan Loynachan, Yatta Boakari, Claudia Fernandes, Pouya Dini, Carleigh Elizabeth Fedorka, Shavahn C Loux, Alejandro Esteller-Vico, and Barry A Ball

Cervical remodeling is a critical component in both term and preterm labor in eutherian mammals. However, the molecular mechanisms underlying cervical remodeling remain poorly understood in the mare. The current study compared the transcriptome of the equine cervix (cervical mucosa (CM) and stroma (CS)) during placentitis (placentitis group, n  = 5) and normal prepartum mares (prepartum group, n  = 3) to normal pregnant mares (control group, n  = 4). Transcriptome analysis identified differentially expressed genes (DEGs) during placentitis (5310 in CM and 907 in CS) and during the normal prepartum period (189 in CM and 78 in CS). Our study revealed that cervical remodeling during placentitis was dominated by inflammatory signaling as reflected by the overrepresented toll-like receptor signaling, interleukin signaling, T cell activation, and B cell activation pathways. These pathways were accompanied by upregulation of several proteases, including matrix metalloproteinases (MMP1, MMP2, and MMP9), cathepsins (CTSB, CTSC, and CTSD) and a disintegrin and metalloproteinase with thrombospondin type 1 motifs (ADAMTS1, ADAMTS4, and ADAMTS5), which are crucial for degradation of cervical collagens during remodeling. Cervical remodeling during placentitis was also associated with upregulation of water channel-related transcripts (AQP9 and RLN), angiogenesis-related transcripts (NOS3, ENG1, THBS1, and RAC2), and aggrecan (ACAN), a hydrophilic glucosaminoglycan, with subsequent cervical hydration. The normal prepartum cervix was associated with upregulation of ADAMTS1, ADAMTS4, NOS3 and THBS1, which might reflect an early stage of cervical remodeling taking place in preparation for labor. In conclusion, our findings revealed the possible key regulators and mechanisms underlying equine cervical remodeling during placentitis and the normal prepartum period.

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Yuta Matsuno, Yahia A Amin, Kazuya Kusama, and Kazuhiko Imakawa

In ruminants, various molecules are involved in regulating conceptus attachment and adhesion; however, molecules that maintain the conceptus adhesion have not been well characterized. We hypothesized that conceptus must produce a molecule(s), yet uncharacterized or overlooked, which maintain conceptus adhesion to the uterine epithelium. In this study, we aimed to identify new candidate(s) in conceptus secretory proteins responsible for maintaining conceptus adhesion in sheep. We performed RNA-sequence analysis with ovine conceptuses, followed by endometria obtained from pregnant animals on day 15 (P15: pre-attachment), 17 (P17: right after attachment), and 21 (P21: post-attachment; adhesion) and iTRAQ analysis of uterine flushing on P15 and P17. To identify the proteins secreted from conceptuses, we cross-referenced the transcriptome and proteome data. These analyses identified 16 and 26 proteins as conceptus secretory proteins on P15 and P17, respectively. Gene ontology analysis revealed that the conceptus secretory proteins were enriched in those categorized to fibrinolysis and coagulation. RT-qPCR analysis verified that the expression levels of transcripts in conceptuses encoding coagulation factors, fibrinogen subunits, and fibrinolysis factors were significantly higher on P21 than on P15 or P17, which were supported by those through in situ hybridization, Western blotting and immunohistochemistry. Histology analysis confirmed that fibrin protein was present at the conceptus adhesion region on P21. These results suggest that in addition to the numerous adhesion molecules so far characterized, fibrin is a new candidate molecule for maintaining conceptus adhesion for pregnancy continuation in ruminants.

Open access

Rowena Smith, Sue J Pickering, Anna Kopakaki, K J Thong, Richard A Anderson, and Chih-Jen Lin

Elucidating the mechanisms underpinning fertilisation is essential to optimising IVF procedures. One of the critical steps involves paternal chromatin reprogramming, in which compacted sperm chromatin packed by protamines is removed by oocyte factors and new histones, including histone H3.3, are incorporated. HIRA is the main H3.3 chaperone governing this protamine-to-histone exchange. Failure of this step results in abnormally fertilised zygotes containing only one pronucleus (1PN), in contrast to normal two-pronuclei (2PN) zygotes. 1PN zygotes are frequently observed in IVF treatments, but the genotype-phenotype correlation remains elusive. We investigated the maternal functions of two other molecules of the HIRA complex, Cabin1 and Ubn1, in mouse. Loss-of-function Cabin1 and Ubn1 mouse models were developed: their zygotes displayed an abnormal 1PN zygote phenotype. We then studied human 1PN zygotes and found that the HIRA complex was absent in 1PN zygotes that lacked the male pronucleus. This shows that the role of the HIRA complex in male pronucleus formation potentially has coherence from mice to humans. Furthermore, rescue experiments in mouse showed that the abnormal 1PN phenotype derived from Hira mutants could be resolved by overexpression of HIRA. We have demonstrated that HIRA complex regulates male pronucleus formation in mice and is implicated in humans, that both CABIN1 and UBN1 components of the HIRA complex are equally essential for male pronucleus formation, and that rescue is feasible.

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Marina Izvolskaia, Vasilina Ignatiuk, Ayshat Ismailova, Viktoria Sharova, and Liudmila Zakharova

Sexual performance in adult male rats is highly sensitive to prenatal stress which can affect the functionality of the reproductive system and various brain structures involved in modulating sexual behavior. The immunomodulatory effect of mouse IgG on reproductive maturity in male offspring after LPS exposure in vivo and in vitro was studied. Prenatal IgG injection (20 µg/mouse) had a positive impact on the puberty of male mice whose mothers were exposed to LPS (100 µg/kg) on the 12th day of pregnancy. The numbers of Sertoli cells were increased, whereas the body weight and the number of symplastic spermatids were decreased in offspring as compared to LPS-treated animals. Besides, IgG had a positive effect on altered hormone levels: reduced estradiol level on the 5th and 14th postnatal days and increased testosterone level on the 30th postnatal day in blood that led to an increased number of mounting attempts in sexually mature males. The cAMP-dependent pathway may be involved in the regulation of the LPS-induced inflammation. IgG reduced the increased level of cAMP in mouse peritoneal macrophages activated by LPS in vitro. IgG is able to modulate inflammation processes but its exposure time is important.

Open access

Aleona Swegen

Maternal recognition of pregnancy (MRP) is a process by which an early conceptus signals its presence to the maternal system and prevents the lysis of the corpus luteum, thus ensuring a maternal milieu supportive of pregnancy continuation. It is a fundamental aspect of reproductive biology, yet in the horse, the mechanism underlying MRP remains unknown. This review seeks to address some of the controversies surrounding the evidence and theories of MRP in the equine species, such as the idea that the horse does not conform to the MRP paradigm established in other species or that equine MRP involves a mechanical, rather than chemical, signal. The review examines the challenges of studying this particularly clandestine phenomenon along with the new tools in scientific research that will drive this quest forward in coming years, and discusses the value of knowledge gleaned along this path in the context of clinical applications for improving breeding outcomes in the horse industry.

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María Silvia Ventimiglia, Natalin Jimena Valeff, Marlon Pozo Albán, Juan Manuel Paturlanne, Lorena Juriol, Florencia Quadrana, Martina Cecotti, Mariano Malamud, Marcos Javier Dibo, María de los Ángeles Serradell, and Federico Jensen

Preterm birth (PTB), defined as birth occurring before 37 weeks of pregnancy, affects 5–18% of pregnancies and is the leading cause of neonatal morbidity and mortality worldwide. Although PTB is considered a syndrome, infection-induced inflammation accounts for up to 50% of all cases. Despite the effort to reduce the incidence of PTB, it continues to rise worldwide and current approaches for preventing or treating PTB are largely unsatisfactory. Probiotics are live microorganisms which, when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host. It is well known that probiotics can modulate the host immune system exerting a potent anti-inflammatory activity. The main aim of this work was to evaluate the capacity of the probiotic Lactobacillus kefiri (Lk48) to prevent preterm birth in mice. C57BL/6 female mice were treated with Lk48 or vehicle a week before and during pregnancy and were challenged with LPS (10 µg), a dose known to induce PTB on gestational day 16. Percentages of PTB as well as stillbirth were evaluated. We observed that oral administration of Lk48 significantly reduced the occurrence of LPS-induced PTB and stillbirth as well as improved post-natal development. This protective effect was associated with a reduction in leucocyte infiltration and reduced inflammation-induced damage in reproductive tissue. Besides, Lk48 treatment also modulated the diversity of vaginal microbiota. Our results demonstrated that prophylactic consumption of probiotic L. kefiri prevented LPS-induced PTB and still birth in mice and opens new avenues for exploring novel and promising strategies for preventing PTB in humans.

Free access

Fuhua Xu, Shally Wolf, O'ryai Green, and Jing Xu

Vitamin D (VD) is a secosteroid hormone synthesized predominantly in the skin upon UV light exposure, which can also be obtained from dietary sources. In target cells, the bioactive VD binds to specific VD receptor to regulate downstream transcription of genes that are involved in a wide range of cellular processes. There is an increasing recognition that the proper physiological levels of VD are critical for optimizing reproductive potential in women. The direct VD action in the ovary was first suggested in the 1980s. Since then, research has attempted to determine the role of VD in follicular development and oocyte maturation in animal models and clinical settings. However, data published to date are inconclusive due to the complexity in VD metabolism and the fact that VD actions are pervasive in regulating physiological functions in various systems, including the reproductive, endocrine and nervous systems that control reproduction. This review summaries in vitro, in vivo, and clinical evidence regarding VD metabolism and signaling in the ovary, as well as VD-regulated or VD-associated ovarian follicular development, steroidogenic function, and oocyte maturation. It is suggested that adequate animal models are needed for well-controlled studies to unravel molecular mechanisms of VD action in the ovary. For clinical studies, follicular development and function may be evaluated more effectively in a relatively homogeneous patient population under a well-controlled experimental design. A comprehensive understanding of VD-regulated folliculogenesis and oogenesis will provide critical insight into the impact of VD in female reproductive health.