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Mancy Tong, Qi Chen, Joanna L James, Michelle R Wise, Peter R Stone, and Lawrence W Chamley

Throughout human gestation, the placenta extrudes vast quantities of extracellular vesicles (EVs) of different sizes into the maternal circulation. Although multinucleated macro-vesicles are known to become trapped in the maternal lungs and do not enter the peripheral circulation, the maternal organs and cells that smaller placental micro-vesicles interact with in vivo remain unknown. This study aimed to characterise the interaction between placental micro-vesicles and endothelial cells in vitro and to elucidate which organs placental micro-vesicles localise to in vivo. Placental macro- and micro-vesicles were isolated from cultured human first trimester placental explants by sequential centrifugation and exposed to human microvascular endothelial cells for up to 72 h. In vivo, placental macro- and micro-vesicles were administered to both non-pregnant and pregnant CD1 mice, and after two or 30 min or 24 h, organs were imaged on an IVIS Kinetic Imager. Placental EVs rapidly interacted with endothelial cells via phagocytic and clathrin-mediated endocytic processes in vitro, with over 60% of maximal interaction being achieved by 30 min of exposure. In vivo, placental macro-vesicles were localised exclusively to the lungs regardless of time of exposure, whereas micro-vesicles were localised to the lungs, liver and kidneys, with different distribution patterns depending on the length of exposure and whether the mouse was pregnant or not. The fact that placental EVs can rapidly interact with endothelial cells and localise to different organs in vivo supports that different size fractions of placental EVs are likely to have different downstream effects on foeto–maternal communication.

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Carmen Almiñana, Emilie Corbin, Guillaume Tsikis, Agostinho S Alcântara-Neto, Valérie Labas, Karine Reynaud, Laurent Galio, Rustem Uzbekov, Anastasiia S Garanina, Xavier Druart, and Pascal Mermillod

Successful pregnancy requires an appropriate communication between the mother and the embryo. Recently, exosomes and microvesicles, both membrane-bound extracellular vesicles (EVs) present in the oviduct fluid have been proposed as key modulators of this unique cross-talk. However, little is known about their content and their role during oviduct-embryo dialog. Given the known differences in secretions by in vivo and in vitro oviduct epithelial cells (OEC), we aimed at deciphering the oviduct EVs protein content from both sources. Moreover, we analyzed their functional effect on embryo development. Our study demonstrated for the first time the substantial differences between in vivo and in vitro oviduct EVs secretion/content. Mass spectrometry analysis identified 319 proteins in EVs, from which 186 were differentially expressed when in vivo and in vitro EVs were compared (P < 0.01). Interestingly, 97 were exclusively expressed in in vivo EVs, 47 were present only in in vitro and 175 were common. Functional analysis revealed key proteins involved in sperm–oocyte binding, fertilization and embryo development, some of them lacking in in vitro EVs. Moreover, we showed that in vitro-produced embryos were able to internalize in vivo EVs during culture with a functional effect in the embryo development. In vivo EVs increased blastocyst rate, extended embryo survival over time and improved embryo quality. Our study provides the first characterization of oviduct EVs, increasing our understanding of the role of oviduct EVs as modulators of gamete/embryo–oviduct interactions. Moreover, our results point them as promising tools to improve embryo development and survival under in vitro conditions.

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Veronica Maillo, Maria Jesus Sánchez-Calabuig, Ricaurte Lopera-Vasquez, Meriem Hamdi, Alfonso Gutierrez-Adan, Patrick Lonergan, and Dimitrios Rizos

The oviduct is a complex and organized thin tubular structure connecting the ovary with the uterus. It is the site of final sperm capacitation, oocyte fertilization and, in most species, the first 3–4days of early embryo development. The oviductal epithelium is made up of ciliary and secretory cells responsible for the secretion of proteins and other factors which contribute to the formation of the oviductal fluid. Despite significant research, most of the pathways and oviductal factors implicated in the crosstalk between gametes/early embryo and the oviduct remain unknown. Therefore, studying the oviductal environment is crucial to improve our understanding of the regulatory mechanisms controlling fertilization and embryo development. In vitro systems are a valuable tool to study in vivo pathways and mechanisms, particularly those in the oviducts which in livestock species are challenging to access. In studies of gamete and embryo interaction with the reproductive tract, oviductal epithelial cells, oviductal fluid and microvesicles co-cultured with gametes/embryos represent the most appropriate in vitro models to mimic the physiological conditions in vivo.

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Eduardo S Ribeiro, José E P Santos, and William W Thatcher

Elongation of the preimplantation conceptus is a prerequisite for successful pregnancy in ruminants and depends on histotroph secretion by the endometrium. Lipids are an essential component of the histotroph, and recent studies indicate that lipids have important roles in the elongation phase of conceptus development. The onset of elongation is marked by dynamic changes in the transcriptome of trophectoderm cells, which are associated with lipid metabolism. During elongation, the trophectoderm increases transcript expression of genes related to uptake, metabolism and de novo biosynthesis of fatty acids and prostaglandins. Expression of the gene PPARG increases substantially, and activation of the transcription factor PPARG by binding of lipid ligands appears to be crucial for the coordination of cell biology during elongation. Lipids accumulated in the epithelial cells of the endometrium during diestrus are likely the most important source of fatty acids for utilization by the conceptus and become available in the uterine lumen through exporting of exosomes, microvesicles, carrier proteins and lipoproteins. Targeting of uterine lipid metabolism and PPARG activity during preimplantation conceptus development through nutraceutical diets may be a good strategy to improve pregnancy survival and reproductive efficiency in ruminants.

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Anna Lange-Consiglio, Claudia Perrini, Giulia Albini, Silvia Modina, Valentina Lodde, Eleonora Orsini, Paola Esposti, and Fausto Cremonesi

The effect of conditioned medium (CM) or microvesicles (MVs), secreted by multicellular spheroids of oviductal cells, and the involvement of some microRNAs (miRNAs) were investigated in canine oocyte maturation. To generate CM, spheroids were cultured for 3 days. MVs were obtained by ultracentrifugation of CM at 100,000 g and measured for size and concentration by NanoSight instrument. Cumulus-oocyte complexes (COCs) were matured at 38.5°C with 5% CO2 and 5% of O2 in synthetic oviductal fluid (SOF) in biphasic systems: for 24 h, with 5.0 μg/mL of LH and for other 48 h with 10% oestrous bitch serum. SOF was used as control (CTR) or supplemented with 10% CM or 25–50–75–100–150 × 106 MVs/mL labeled with PKH-26. Results show that multicellular aggregates secreted shedding vesicles. By fluorescence microscopy, the incorporation of labeled MVs was visible only at 72 h in oocyte cytoplasm. These MVs had a positive effect (P < 0.05) on maturation rate (MII) at the concentration of 75 and 100 × 106 MVs/mL compared to CM and CTR (20.34% and 21.82% vs 9.09% and 8.66% respectively). The concentration of 150 × 106 MVs/mL provided only 9.26% of MII. The expression of three specific miRNAs (miR-30b, miR-375 and miR-503) was studied. The lower rate of MII with the higher concentration of MVs is possibly due to the high level of miR-375. In conclusion, the oviductal MVs could be involved in cellular trafficking during oocyte maturation and their possible use in vitro could facilitate the exploitment of canine reproductive biotechnologies.

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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.

Free access

A. D. Franek, L. A. Salamonsen, and A. Lopata

Marmoset monkey blastocysts maintained in culture produced trophoblastic vesicles up to 4 mm in diameter that were subdivided into fragments and subcultured to produce new vesicles. These tissues are composed of an outer layer of trophoblast-like cells and an inner layer of endoderm-like cells, and resemble a blastocyst wall. When such vesicles were cultured in serum-free medium for 14 days, they increased in size but there was no significant difference in their protein content at the end of culture. The proliferation index, measured by BrdU incorporation, varied considerably within and between vesicles. The purpose of this investigation was to determine which matrix metalloproteinases are secreted by marmoset monkey trophoblastic tissue in vitro, and the effect of extracellular laminin on this secretion. It was determined by zymography that the vesicles secreted matrix metalloproteinase 2, but not matrix metalloproteinase 9, and that matrix metalloproteinase 2 was secreted as the proenzyme (72 kDa). Matrix metalloproteinases 1, 3 and 7 were not detectable in the culture medium. The addition of laminin (5–20 μg ml−1), either as a substrate or in solution in the medium, did not have a consistent effect on matrix metalloproteinase 2 secretion during the culture period. The vesicles were found to express both matrix metalloproteinases 2 and 9 in both types of cell when examined by immunohistochemistry. The expression of matrix metalloproteinase 9 in the vesicles, but the absence of its secretion, indicates that specific factors, possibly of endometrial origin, may be required for inducing secretion.

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Chunjin Li and Xu Zhou

Neurotrophins are a family of polypeptide growth factors that are required for the proliferation, differentiation, survival, and death of neuronal cells. A growing body of evidence suggests that they may have broader physiological roles in various non-neuronal tissues. The testicles are complex non-neuronal organs in which diverse cell types interact to achieve correct spermatogenesis. Both neurotrophins and their receptors have been detected in various cell types from mammalian testes, suggesting that neurotrophins may regulate or mediate intercellular communication within this organ. This review summarizes the existing data on the cellular distribution and possible biological roles of neurotrophins in the testes. The data reported in the literature indicate that neurotrophins affect somatic cell growth and spermatogenesis and imply that they play a role in regulating testicular development and male reproduction.

Free access

Michael K G Stewart, Jamie Simek, and Dale W Laird

Gap junctions formed of connexin subunits link adjacent cells by direct intercellular communication that is essential for normal tissue homeostasis in the mammary gland. The mammary gland undergoes immense remodeling and requires exquisite regulation to control the proliferative, differentiating, and cell death mechanisms regulating gland development and function. The generation of novel genetically modified mice with reduced or ablated connexin function within the mammary gland has advanced our understanding of the role of gap junctions during the complex and dynamic process of mammary gland development. These studies have revealed an important stage-specific role for Cx26 (GJA1) and Cx43 (GJB2), while Cx30 (GJB6) and Cx32 (Gjb1) can be eliminated without compromising the gland. Yet, there remain gaps in our understanding of the role of mammary gland gap junctions.

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Robert Sullivan and Fabrice Saez

Mammalian spermatozoa are unique cells in many ways, and the acquisition of their main function, i.e. fertilization capacity, is a multistep process starting in the male gonad and ending near the female egg for the few cells reaching this point. Owing to the unique character of this cell, the molecular pathways necessary to achieve its maturation also show some specific characteristics. One of the most striking specificities of the spermatozoon is that its DNA is highly compacted after the replacement of histones by protamines, making the classical processes of transcription and translation impossible. The sperm cells are thus totally dependent on their extracellular environment for their protection against oxidative stress, for example, or for the molecular changes occurring during the transit of the epididymis; the first organ in which post-testicular maturation takes place. The molecular mechanisms underlying sperm maturation are still largely unknown, but it has been shown in the past three decades that extracellular vesicles secreted by the male reproductive tract are involved in this process. This review will examine the roles played by two types of naturally occurring extracellular vesicles, epididymosomes and prostasomes, secreted by the epididymis and the prostate respectively. We will also describe how the use of artificial vesicles, liposomes, contributed to the study of male reproductive physiology.