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  • Abstract: Fertility preservation x
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  • Abstract: ovary transplantation x
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  • Abstract: in vitro follicle culture x
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Open access

Belinda K M Lo, Sairah Sheikh and Suzannah A Williams

Follicle development requires complex and coordinated interactions between both the oocyte and its associated somatic cells. In ovarian dysfunction, follicle development may be abnormal due to defective somatic cell function; for example, premature ovarian insufficiency or malignancies. Replacing defective somatic cells, using the reaggregated ovary (RO) technique, may ‘rescue’ follicle development. ROs containing mature follicles have been generated when transplanted to a host mouse to develop. We have developed a RO culture technique and the aims were to determine how follicle development differed between transplanted and cultured ROs, and the influence of ovarian age (P2 vs P6). Mouse ROs were cultured for 14 days; P2 and P6 ovaries cultured as Controls. Follicle development was compared to ROs transplanted for 14 days and ovaries from P16 and P20 mice. ROs generated from either P2 or P6 exhibited similar follicle development in culture whereas in vivo follicle development was more advanced in P6 ROs. Follicles were more developed in cultured ROs than transplanted ROs. However, follicles in cultured ROs and ovaries had smaller oocytes with fewer theca and granulosa cells than in vivo counterparts. Our results demonstrate the fluidity of follicle development despite ovary dissociation and that environment is more important to basal lamina formation and theca cell development. Furthermore, follicle development within cultured ROs appears to be independent of oocyte nest breakdown and primordial follicle formation in source ovaries. Our results highlight the need for understanding follicle development in vitro, particularly in the development of the RO technique as a potential fertility treatment.

Open access

A I Qureshi, S S Nussey, G Bano, P Musonda, S A Whitehead and H D Mason

Histological studies have demonstrated that polycystic ovaries (PCO) contain increased numbers of preantral follicles with a specific increase in primary follicles. Polycystic ovary syndrome is associated with hyperandrogenism and pre- and postnatal androgenisation of primates increases the pool of growing follicles producing changes resembling PCO. In vitro studies could test the hypothesis that androgens alter early folliculogenesis, but conventional culture techniques for small follicles are generally unsuitable in non-rodent species. Our objective was to develop and use a method to investigate the effects of testosterone on early folliculogenesis. We adapted an in ovo technique in which lamb cortical ovarian fragments were grafted onto the chorioallantoic membrane of fertilised chick eggs. Optimal experimental conditions for vascularisation and survival of tissue were determined and the model then used to investigate the effects of testosterone on follicle growth. Eggs were inoculated with testosterone at the time of implantation of the ovarian tissue, which was retrieved 5 days later. Tissue was sectioned and follicles staged and counted. There was no wholesale initiation of primordial follicle growth over the 5-day in ovo culture. Importantly, the proportion of primordial, primary and secondary follicles remained similar to those in unimplanted tissue. Testosterone increased the number of primary follicles by 50% compared with controls, an effect that was largely due to a reduction in atresia. In conclusion, incubation of ovarian cortex with testosterone reproduces the changes in early folliculogenesis reported in histological studies of PCO.

Open access

J M Young, S Henderson, C Souza, H Ludlow, N Groome and A S McNeilly

Little is known about the role of activin B during folliculogenesis. This study investigated the expression levels of activin/inhibin subunits (βA, βB, and α), steroid enzyme, and gonadotrophin receptors in theca (TC) and granulosa cells (GC) by QPCR and activin A and B and inhibin A protein levels in follicular fluid (FF) of developing sheep follicles during estrus and anestrus. The effect of activin B on androgen production from primary TC cultures in vitro was also assessed. During folliculogenesis, in anestrus and estrus, FF activin B concentrations and thecal and GC activin βB mRNA levels decreased as follicle diameter increased from 1–3 to >6 mm regardless of estrogenic status. Estrogenic preovulatory follicles had reduced concentrations of FF activins B and A, and TC and GCs expressed higher levels of activin βA mRNA at 3–4 mm, and TCs more inhibin α mRNA at >4 mm stages of development compared with nonestrogenic follicles. Activin B decreased androstenedione production from primary TCs in vitro, an effect blocked by inhibin A. Thus, sheep follicles 1–3 mm in diameter contained high FF levels of activin B, which decreased as the follicle size increased, and, like activin A, suppressed thecal androgen production in vitro, an effect blocked by inhibin. Furthermore, the theca of large estrogenic follicles expressed high levels of inhibin α and activin βA mRNA suggesting local thecal derived inhibin A production. This would inhibit the negative effects of thecal activins B and A ensuring maximum androgen production for enhanced estradiol production by the preovulatory follicle(s).

Open access

Song Li, Qi Fan, Yanqiu Xie, Haiyan Lin, Qi Qiu, Yihua Liang and Qingxue Zhang

In vitro activation of primordial follicles is becoming more essential in assisted reproductive technologies. Vasoactive intestinal peptide (VIP) is one of the members of the neurotrophin family which has demonstrated to have an impact on follicle development in recent years. This study aims to investigate the effect of VIP on the activation of primordial follicles in neonatal rat in an in vitro culture system and to determine the relevant molecular mechanism of their activation. Ovaries of 4-day-old rats were examined for the expression of VIP receptors and were cultured in mediums containing VIP with or without inhibitors of the ERK–mTOR signalling pathway. They were then collected for histological analysis or measurement of the molecular expression of this pathway. The receptors of VIP were found in granular cells and oocytes of primordial and early-growing follicles in neonatal ovary. The ratio of growing follicle increased in the presence VIP at different concentrations, with the highest level of increase being observed in the 10−7 mol/L VIP-treated group. The ratio of PCNA-positive granular cells was also increased, while that of the apoptotic oocytes were decreased, and protein analysis showed increased phosphorylation of ERK1/2, mTOR and RPS6 in the VIP-treated group. However, the effect of VIP on the activation of primordial follicle became insignificant with the addition of MEK inhibitor (U0126) or mTORC1 inhibitor (rapamycin). This study indicated that VIP could activate neonatal rat primordial follicle through the ERK-mTOR signalling pathway, suggesting a strategy for in vitro primordial follicle recruitment.

Open access

Caroline M Allen, Federica Lopes, Rod T Mitchell and Norah Spears

Chemotherapy treatment is a mainstay of anticancer regimens, significantly contributing to the recent increase in childhood cancer survival rates. Conventional cancer therapy targets not only malignant but also healthy cells resulting in side effects including infertility. For prepubertal boys, there are currently no fertility preservation strategies in use, although several potential methods are under investigation. Most of the current knowledge in relation to prepubertal gonadotoxicity has been deduced from adult studies; however, the prepubertal testis is relatively quiescent in comparison to the adult. This review provides an overview of research to date in humans and animals describing chemotherapy-induced prepubertal gonadotoxicity, focusing on direct gonadal damage. Testicular damage is dependent upon the agent, dosage, administration schedule and age/pubertal status at time of treatment. The chemotherapy agents investigated so far target the germ cell population activating apoptotic pathways and may also impair Sertoli cell function. Due to use of combined chemotherapy agents for patients, the impact of individual drugs is hard to define, however, use of in vivo and in vitro animal models can overcome this problem. Furthering our understanding of how chemotherapy agents target the prepubertal testis will provide clarity to patients on the gonadotoxicity of different drugs and aid in the development of cytoprotective agents.

Open access

Alicia A Goyeneche and Carlos M Telleria

Antiprogestins constitute a group of compounds, developed since the early 1980s, that bind progesterone receptors with different affinities. The first clinical uses for antiprogestins were in reproductive medicine, e.g., menstrual regulation, emergency contraception, and termination of early pregnancies. These initial applications, however, belied the capacity for these compounds to interfere with cell growth. Within the context of gynecological diseases, antiprogestins can block the growth of and kill gynecological-related cancer cells, such as those originating in the breast, ovary, endometrium, and cervix. They can also interrupt the excessive growth of cells giving rise to benign gynecological diseases such as endometriosis and leiomyomata (uterine fibroids). In this article, we present a review of the literature providing support for the antigrowth activity that antiprogestins impose on cells in various gynecological diseases. We also provide a summary of the cellular and molecular mechanisms reported for these compounds that lead to cell growth inhibition and death. The preclinical knowledge gained during the past few years provides robust evidence to encourage the use of antiprogestins in order to alleviate the burden of gynecological diseases, either as monotherapies or as adjuvants of other therapies with the perspective of allowing for long-term treatments with tolerable side effects. The key to the clinical success of antiprogestins in this field probably lies in selecting those patients who will benefit from this therapy. This can be achieved by defining the genetic makeup required – within each particular gynecological disease – for attaining an objective response to antiprogestin-driven growth inhibition therapy.

Free Spanish abstract

A Spanish translation of this abstract is freely available at http://www.reproduction-online.org/content/149/1/R15/suppl/DC1.

Open access

Federica Lopes, Jin Liu, Stephanie Morgan, Rebecca Matthews, Lucy Nevin, Richard A Anderson and Norah Spears

Chemotherapy drugs are administered to patients using combination regimens, and as such the possibility of multiplicative effects between drugs need to be investigated. This study examines the individual and combined effects of the chemotherapy drugs cisplatin and doxorubicin on the human ovary. Although cisplatin and doxorubicin are known to affect female fertility, there is limited information about their direct effects on the human ovary, and none examining the possibility of combined, multiplicative effects of co-exposure to these drugs. Here, human ovarian biopsies were obtained from 14 women at the time of caesarean section, with 38 mouse ovaries also obtained from neonatal C57Bl/6J mice. Tissue was cultured for 6 days prior to analyses, with chemotherapy drugs added to culture medium on the second day of culture only. Treatment groups of a single (5 μg/mL human; 0.5 μg/mL mouse) or double (10 μg/mL human; 1.0 μg/mL mouse) dose of cisplatin, a single (1 μg/mL human; 0.05 μg/mL mouse) or double (2 μg/mL human; 0.01 μg/mL mouse) dose of doxorubicin or a combination of a single dose of both drugs together were compared to controls without drug exposure. Exposure to cisplatin or doxorubicin significantly decreased follicle health in human and mouse, supporting the suitability of the mouse as a model for the human ovary. There was also a significant reduction of mouse follicle number. Human ovarian stromal tissue exhibited increased apoptosis and decreased cell proliferation. Crucially, there was no evidence indicating the occurrence of multiplicative effects between cisplatin and doxorubicin.