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Matteo Duque Rodriguez, Andrés Gambini, Laura D Ratner, Adrian J Sestelo, Olinda Briski, Cynthia Gutnisky, Susana B Rulli, Rafael Fernández Martin, Pablo Cetica, and Daniel F Salamone

Heterospecific embryo transfer of an endangered species has been carried out using recipients from related domestic females. Aggregation of an embryo from an endangered species with a tetraploid embryo from the species to be transferred could improve the development of pregnancy to term. The main objective of the present study was to analyze embryo aggregation in domestic cat model using hybrid embryos. For this purpose, we compared in vitro development of synchronic (Sync) or asynchronic (Async) and asynchronic with a tetraploid (Async4n) aggregation of domestic cat IVF embryos. Furthermore, aggregated blastocyst quality was analyzed by evaluation of the total cell number, cell allocation by mitotrackers staining of embryonic cells, expression of Oct4, Nanog, Sox2, Cdx2 genes, number of OCT4+ nuclei, and presence of DNA fragmentation. Additionally, the developmental rates of Async4n aggregation of domestic cat with Leopardus geoffroyi hybrid (hLg) embryos were evaluated. Async aggregation increased blastocyst cell number and the number of OCT4+ nuclei as compared to non-aggregated diploid (2n) and tetraploid (4n) embryos. Moreover, blastocysts produced by Async4n aggregation showed reduced rates of fragmented DNA. No differences were found in the expression of the pluripotent genes, with exception of the Cdx2 expression, which was higher in 4n and aggregated embryos as compared to the control group. Interestingly, hybrids embryos derived by Async4n aggregation with domestic cat embryos had similar rates of blastocysts development as the control. Altogether, the findings support the use of two-cell-fused embryos to generate tetraploid blastomeres and demonstrate that Async4n aggregation generates good quality embryos.

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Yufei Wang, Haoya Chang, Qifu He, Yaxing Xue, Kang Zhang, Jian Kang, Ying Wang, Zhiming Xu, Yong Zhang, and Fusheng Quan

Oocyte vitrification has significantly improved the survival rate and become the mainstream method for cryopreserving oocytes. Previous studies have demonstrated that the ultrastructure, mitochondrial function, DNA methylation, and histone modification exhibit an irreversible effect after oocyte vitrification. However, little is known about the effects of oocyte vitrification on glucose transport and metabolism. This study aims to determine whether mouse oocyte vitrification causes abnormal glucose metabolism and identify a strategy to correct abnormal glucose metabolism. Furthermore, this study further investigates the effects of oocyte vitrification on glucose uptake, and glucose metabolism, and energy levels. The results indicated that vitrification significantly reduced the glucose transport activity, NADPH, glutathione, and ATP levels, and increased reactive oxygen species levels in oocytes (P  < 0.01). Vitrification also reduced the expression of glucose transporter isoform 1 (GLUT1) (P  < 0.01). Adding a GLUT1 inhibitor reduced the glucose uptake capacity of oocytes. Furthermore, the inclusion of vitamin C into thawing and culture solutions restored abnormal glucose transportation and metabolism and improved the survival, two-cell embryo, and blastocyst rates of the vitrified groups via parthenogenesis (P  < 0.05). Overall, this method may improve the quality and efficiency of oocyte vitrification.

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Michala Rosa Birch, Steen Dissing, Niels E Skakkebæk, and Anders Rehfeld

Ca2+ signalling controls human sperm functions necessary for successful fertilization. Multiple endocrine-disrupting chemicals have been found to activate the CatSper Ca2+ channel and thereby interfering with Ca2+ signalling in human sperm. Finasteride is prescribed to men in the fertile age to treat hair loss and its use has been associated with impaired male fertility. Due to the structural relatedness of finasteride to the endogenous CatSper ligand progesterone, this study aimed to investigate whether finasteride affects human sperm in a progestogen-like manner. The effect of finasteride on Ca2+ signalling via CatSper in human sperm was investigated in cell suspensions by single-cell imaging. Additionally, effects on sperm penetration into viscous medium and acrosome reaction were assessed. Finasteride alone caused a minor transient rise in the intracellular, free Ca2+ concentration ([Ca2+]i) at physiologically relevant concentrations. Ca2+ signals induced by PGE1 were inhibited by finasteride displaying mixed type of inhibition consistent with multiple binding sites. Finasteride did not interfere with progesterone-induced Ca2+ signalling and no effect on acrosome reaction or sperm viability was found. Finasteride significantly decreased PGE1-induced penetration into viscous medium but in concentrations above what is measured in blood and seminal fluids during regular finasteride administration. In conclusion, the use of finasteride may affect Ca2+ signalling in human sperm through an interaction with the PGE1-binding site, but to which extend it alters the chances of a successful fertilization needs further investigation. It remains to be investigated whether finasteride administration may give rise to side effects by interfering with prostaglandin signalling elsewhere in the human body.

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Luiz Cordeiro, Hsiu-Lien Herbie Lin, Anaïs Vitorino Carvalho, Isabelle Grasseau, Rustem Uzbekov, and Elisabeth Blesbois

Male subfertility causes are very varied and sometimes related to post-gonadic maturation disruption, involving seminal plasma constituents. Among them, extracellular vesicles are involved in key exchanges with sperm in mammals. However, in birds, the existence of seminal extracellular vesicles is still debated. The aim of the present work was first to clarify the putative presence of extracellular vesicles in the seminal plasma of chickens, secondly to characterize their size and protein markers in animals showing different fertility, and finally to make preliminary evaluations of their interactions with sperm. We successfully isolated extracellular vesicles from seminal plasma of males showing the highest differences in semen quality and fertility by using ultracentrifugation protocol (pool of 3 ejaculates/rooster, n =3/condition). Size characterization performed by electron microscopy revealed a high proportion of small extracellular vesicles (probably exosomes) in chicken seminal plasma. Smaller extracellular vesicles appeared more abundant in fertile than in subfertile roosters, with a mean diameter of 65.12 and 77.18 nm, respectively. Different protein markers of extracellular vesicles were found by western blotting (n = 6/condition). Among them, HSP90A was significantly more abundant in fertile than in subfertile males. In co-incubation experiments (n = 3/condition), extracellular vesicles enriched seminal fractions of fertile males showed a higher capacity to be incorporated into fertile than into subfertile sperm. Sperm viability and motility were impacted by the presence of extracellular vesicles from fertile males. In conclusion, we successfully demonstrated the presence of extracellular vesicles in chicken seminal plasma, with differential size, protein markers and putative incorporation capacity according to male fertility status.

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Yoshiteru Kai, Hiroomi Kawano, and Naoki Yamashita

Unlike in mice, multinucleated blastomeres appear at a high frequency in the two-cell-stage embryos in humans. In this Point of View article, we demonstrate that the first mitotic spindle formation led by sperm centrosome-dependent microtubule organizing centers may cause a high incidence of zygotic division errors using human tripronuclear zygotes.

Open access

Konstantina Nikolakopoulou and Margherita Y Turco

Infertility is a common problem in modern societies with significant socio-psychological implications for women. Therapeutic interventions are often needed which, depending on the cause, can either be medical treatment, surgical procedures or assisted reproductive technology (ART). However, the treatment of infertility is not always successful due to our limited understanding of the preparation of the lining of the uterus, the endometrium, for pregnancy. The endometrium is of central importance for successful reproduction as it is the site of placental implantation providing the interface between the mother and her baby. Due to the dynamic, structural and functional changes the endometrium undergoes throughout the menstrual cycle, it is challenging to study. A major advancement is the establishment of 3D organoid models of the human endometrium to study this dynamic tissue in health and disease. In this review, we describe the changes that the human endometrium undergoes through the different phases of the menstrual cycle in preparation for pregnancy. We discuss defects in the processes of endometrial repair, decidualization and acquisition of receptivity that are associated with infertility. Organoids could be utilized to investigate the underlying cellular and molecular mechanisms occurring in non-pregnant endometrium and early pregnancy. These studies may lead to therapeutic applications that could transform the treatment of reproductive failure.

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Shi-Yu An, Zi-Fei Liu, El-Samahy M A, Ming-Tian Deng, Xiao-Xiao Gao, Ya-Xu Liang, Chen-Bo Shi, Zhi-Hai Lei, Feng Wang, and Guo-Min Zhang

Long ncRNAs regulate a complex array of fundamental biological processes, while its molecular regulatory mechanism in Leydig cells (LCs) remains unclear. In the present study, we established the lncRNA LOC102176306/miR-1197-3p/peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor gamma coactivator 1 alpha (PPARGC1A) regulatory network by bioinformatic prediction, and investigated its roles in goat LCs. We found that lncRNA LOC102176306 could efficiently bind to miR-1197-3p and regulate PPARGC1A expression in goat LCs. Downregulation of lncRNA LOC102176306 significantly supressed testosterone (T) synthesis and ATP production, decreased the activities of antioxidant enzymes and mitochondrial complex I and complex III, caused the loss of mitochondrial membrane potential, and inhibited the proliferation of goat LCs by decreasing PPARGC1A expression, while these effects could be restored by miR-1197-3p inhibitor treatment. In addition, miR-1197-3p mimics treatment significantly alleviated the positive effects of lncRNA LOC102176306 overexpression on T and ATP production, antioxidant capacity and proliferation of goat LCs. Taken together, lncRNA LOC102176306 functioned as a sponge for miR-1197-3p to maintain PPARGC1A expression, thereby affecting the steroidogenesis, cell proliferation and oxidative stress of goat LCs. These findings extend our understanding of the molecular mechanisms of T synthesis, cell proliferation and oxidative stress of LCs.

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Anthony D Horlock, Thomas J R Ormsby, Martin J D Clift, José E P Santos, John J Bromfield, and I Martin Sheldon

Bovine granulosa cells are often exposed to energy stress, due to the energy demands of lactation, and exposed to lipopolysaccharide from postpartum bacterial infections. Granulosa cells mount innate immune responses to lipopolysaccharide, including the phosphorylation of mitogen-activated protein kinases and production of pro-inflammatory interleukins. Cellular energy depends on glycolysis, and energy stress activates intracellular AMPK (AMP-activated protein kinase), which in turn inhibits mTOR (mechanistic target of rapamycin). Here, we tested the hypothesis that manipulating glycolysis, AMPK or mTOR to mimic energy stress in bovine granulosa cells limits the inflammatory responses to lipopolysaccharide. We inhibited glycolysis, activated AMPK or inhibited mTOR in granulosa cells isolated from 4–8mm and from > 8.5 mm diameter ovarian follicles, and then challenged the cells with lipopolysaccharide and measured the production of interleukins IL-1α, IL-1β, and IL-8. We found that inhibiting glycolysis with 2-deoxy-d-glucose reduced lipopolysaccharide-stimulated IL-1α > 80%, IL-1β > 90%, and IL-8 > 65% in granulosa cells from 4–8 mm and from > 8.5 mm diameter ovarian follicles. Activating AMPK with AICAR also reduced lipopolysaccharide-stimulated IL-1α > 60%, IL-1β > 75%, and IL-8 > 20%, and shortened the duration of lipopolysaccharide-stimulated phosphorylation of the mitogen-activated protein kinase ERK1/2 and JNK. However, only the mTOR inhibitor Torin 1, and not rapamycin, reduced lipopolysaccharide-stimulated IL-1α and IL-1β. In conclusion, manipulating granulosa cell energy metabolism with a glycolysis inhibitor, an AMPK activator, or an mTOR inhibitor, limited inflammatory responses to lipopolysaccharide. Our findings imply that energy stress compromises ovarian follicle immune defences.

Free access

Marc Kanbar, Maxime Vermeulen, and Christine Wyns

Organoids are 3D structures characterized by cellular spatial organizations and functions close to the native tissue they mimic. Attempts to create organoids originating from several tissues have now been reported, including the testis. Testicular organoids have the potential to improve our knowledge of the mechanisms that regulate testicular morphogenesis, physiology, and pathophysiology. They could especially prove as useful tools to understand the complex mechanisms involved in the regulation of the germ cell niche in infertility cases as they offer the possibility to control and modify the nature of cell types before self-assembly and thereby opening the perspective for developing innovative methods to restore fertility. To date, there are only few studies targeted at testicular organoids’ formation and even less describing the generation of organoids with both testis-specific structure and function. While researchers described interesting applications with regards to testicular tissue morphogenesis and drug toxicity, further research is needed before testicular organoids would eventually lead to the generation of fertilizing spermatozoa. This review will present the conventional systems used to induce in vitro maturation of testicular cells, describe the different approaches that have been used for the development of testicular organoids and discuss the potential applications they could have in the field of male reproductive biology.

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Takafumi Ushida, Tomomi Kotani, Yoshinori Moriyama, Charles C T Hindmarch, Tiziana Cotechini, Kenji Imai, Tomoko Nakano-Kobayashi, Hiroaki Kajiyama, and Charles H Graham

Women with a history of preeclampsia have an increased risk of subsequent cardiovascular and metabolic disease. While aberrant inflammation during pregnancy is associated with the development of preeclampsia, whether maternal inflammation increases the risk of disease later in life is unclear. Using a rat model we determined whether aberrant inflammation in pregnancy alters the levels of plasma proteins associated with cardiovascular and metabolic disease risk in the postpartum period. Pregnant rats were administered lipopolysaccharide (LPS) or saline on gestational days 13.5–16.5 to induce inflammation. Non-pregnant controls consisted of age-matched female rats subjected to similar administration of LPS or saline. Examination of the proteomic profile of plasma collected 16 weeks after delivery or from non-pregnant controls using liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry revealed 100 differentially expressed proteins. Moreover, we identified 188 proteins in pregnant rats, of which 49 were differentially expressed in saline- vs LPS-treated dams. Of the 49 proteins regulated by LPS, 28 were pregnancy specific. PANTHER classification software, DAVID database and Ingenuity Pathways analysis revealed that the differentially expressed proteins in pregnant saline vs LPS-treated rats are associated with alterations in lipid and glucose metabolism and atherosclerosis, all of which may contribute to cardiovascular and metabolic disease risk. Results from proteomic and pathway analyses were validated by immunoassay of three serum proteins selected a priori and by assessment of serum metabolites. This discovery study demonstrates that aberrant inflammation during pregnancy results in long-lasting postpartum physiological alterations known to be associated with metabolic and cardiovascular disease.