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Yi Zheng, Aldo Jongejan, Callista L Mulder, Sebastiaan Mastenbroek, Sjoerd Repping, Yinghua Wang, Jinsong Li, and Geert Hamer

Spermatogenesis, starting with spermatogonial differentiation, is characterized by ongoing and dramatic alterations in composition and function of chromatin. Failure to maintain proper chromatin dynamics during spermatogenesis may lead to mutations, chromosomal aberrations or aneuploidies. When transmitted to the offspring, these can cause infertility or congenital malformations. The structural maintenance of chromosomes (SMC) 5/6 protein complex has recently been described to function in chromatin modeling and genomic integrity maintenance during spermatogonial differentiation and meiosis. Among the subunits of the SMC5/6 complex, non-SMC element 2 (NSMCE2) is an important small ubiquitin-related modifier (SUMO) ligase. NSMCE2 has been reported to be essential for mouse development, prevention of cancer and aging in adult mice and topological stress relief in human somatic cells. By using in vitro cultured primary mouse spermatogonial stem cells (SSCs), referred to as male germline stem (GS) cells, we investigated the function of NSMCE2 during spermatogonial proliferation and differentiation. We first optimized a protocol to generate genetically modified GS cell lines using CRISPR-Cas9 and generated an Nsmce2 −/− GS cell line. Using this Nsmce2 −/− GS cell line, we found that NSMCE2 was dispensable for proliferation, differentiation and topological stress relief in mouse GS cells. Moreover, RNA sequencing analysis demonstrated that the transcriptome was only minimally affected by the absence of NSMCE2. Only differential expression of Sgsm1 appeared highly significant, but with SGSM1 protein levels being unaffected without NSMCE2. Hence, despite the essential roles of NSMCE2 in somatic cells, chromatin integrity maintenance seems differentially regulated in the germline.

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Jinxiu Dong, Siqi Liu, Ziming Wang, Kai Zheng, Mengli Yang, Jianjun Liu, and Liuwang Nie

The specificity of sperm–egg recognition is crucial to species independence, and two proteins (Izumo1 and JUNO) are essential for gamete adhesion/fusion in mammals. However, hybridization, which is very common in turtles, also requires specific recognition of sperm–egg binding proteins. In this study, we discovered that natural selection plays an important role in the codon usage bias of Tu-Izumo1 and Tu-JUNO. Positively selected sites and co-evolutionary analyses between Tu-Izumo1 and Tu-JUNO have been previously reported, and we confirm these results in a larger analysis containing 25 turtle species. We also showed that Tu-JUNO is expressed on the oocyte surface and that Tu-Izumo1 and Tu-JUNO interact with each other directly in different species hybridization combinations. Co-immunization assays revealed that this interaction is evolutionarily conserved in turtles. The results of avidity-based extracellular interaction screening between Tu-Izumo1 and Tu-JUNO for sperm–oocyte binding pairs (both within and across species) likely suggest that the interaction force between Izumo1 and JUNO has a certain correlation in whether the turtles can hybridize. Our results lay a theoretical foundation for the subsequent development of techniques to detect whether different turtle species can interbreed, which would provide the molecular basis for breeding management and species protection of turtles.

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Qiao-Song Zheng, Xiao-Na Wang, Qing Wen, Yan Zhang, Su-Ren Chen, Jun Zhang, Xi-Xia Li, Ri-Na Sha, Zhao-Yuan Hu, Fei Gao, and Yi-Xun Liu

Spermatogenesis is a complex process involving the regulation of multiple cell types. As the only somatic cell type in the seminiferous tubules, Sertoli cells are essential for spermatogenesis throughout the spermatogenic cycle. The Wilms tumor gene, Wt1, is specifically expressed in the Sertoli cells of the mouse testes. In this study, we demonstrated that Wt1 is required for germ cell differentiation in the developing mouse testes. At 10 days post partum, Wt1-deficient testes exhibited clear meiotic arrest and undifferentiated spermatogonia accumulation in the seminiferous tubules. In addition, the expression of claudin11, a marker and indispensable component of Sertoli cell integrity, was impaired in Wt1 −/flox ; Cre-ER TM testes. This observation was confirmed in in vitro testis cultures. However, the basal membrane of the seminiferous tubules in Wt1-deficient testes was not affected. Based on these findings, we propose that Sertoli cells' status is affected in Wt1-deficient mice, resulting in spermatogenesis failure.

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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.