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S Marchiani, L Tamburrino, G Farnetani, M Muratori, L Vignozzi, and E Baldi

Epidemiological studies reported a negative relationship between concentrations of heavy metals and phthalates in seminal fluid and semen quality, likely compromising male fertility potential. The aim of this study was to investigate the in vitro effects of cadmium chloride (CdCl2), a common heavy metal, and diisobutyl phthalate (DIBP), a common phthalate ester, on human sperm functions necessary for fertilization. After in vitro incubation of spermatozoa with 10 µM CdCl2 or 100 and 200 µM DIBP for 24 h, a significant decrease of sperm progressive and hyperactivated motility was observed. The exposure to each of the two toxic agents also induced spontaneous sperm acrosome reaction and blunted the physiological response to progesterone. Both agents induced an increase of caspase activity suggesting triggering of an apoptotic pathway. Our results suggest that acute exposure of spermatozoa to these pollutants may impair sperm ability to reach and fertilize the oocyte.

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Elizabeth K McReight, Seng H Liew, Sarah E Steane, Karla J Hutt, Karen M Moritz, and Lisa K Akison

Prenatal alcohol exposure (PAE) has been associated with reproductive dysfunction in offspring. However, studies in females, particularly examining long-term infertility or impacts on ovarian reserve, are lacking. The current study utilised a moderate, episodic exposure model in rats to mimic ‘special occasion’ drinking, which is reported to be common during pregnancy. Our objective was to examine the consequences of this prenatal alcohol exposure on reproductive parameters in female offspring. Pregnant Sprague–Dawley rats were treated with either an ethanol gavage (1 g EtOH/kg body weight), or an equivalent volume of saline, on embryonic days 13.5 and 14.5 of pregnancy, resulting in a peak blood alcohol concentration of ~0.04%. Neonatal female offspring were examined for molecular markers regulating early follicle numbers in the ovary, and unbiased stereology was used to quantify primordial and early growing follicle numbers. Puberty onset (age at vaginal opening and first estrous) was measured post-weaning, and estrous cycles, reproductive hormones (progesterone and estradiol) and pregnancy success was measured in adults (5–6 months of age). We found no evidence that any of these reproductive parameters were significantly altered by PAE in this model. This animal study provides some reassurance for women who may have consumed a small amount of alcohol during their pregnancy. However, previously published effects on offspring metabolism using this model reinforce avoidance of alcohol during pregnancy.

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L K Akison, K M Moritz, and N Reid

Fetal alcohol exposure results in well-characterised neurobehavioural deficits in offspring, which form the basis for diagnosing fetal alcohol spectrum disorder. However, there is increasing interest in the full range of health complications that can arise in children and adults with this disorder. We used a systematic review approach to locate all clinical and preclinical studies across a broad range of health outcomes in offspring exposed to prenatal alcohol. Our search encompassed four databases (PubMed, CINAHL, EMBASE and Web of Science) and titles/abstracts from retrieved studies were screened against strict inclusion/exclusion criteria. This review specifically evaluated studies reporting on reproductive outcomes in both males and females. A total of 23 studies were included, 5 clinical and 18 preclinical. Although there was a wide range in the quality of reporting across both clinical and preclinical studies, and variable results, trends emerged amongst the reproductive measures that were investigated. In females, most studies focussed on age at first menarche/puberty onset, with evidence for a significant delay in alcohol-exposed offspring. In males, offspring exposed to prenatal alcohol had altered testosterone levels, reduced testes and accessory gland weights and reduced sperm concentration and semen volume. However, further studies are required due to the paucity of clinical studies, the narrow scope of female reproductive outcomes examined and inconsistencies in outcomes across preclinical studies. We recommend that adolescents and individuals of reproductive age diagnosed with f-etal alcohol spectrum disorder be assessed for reproductive dysfunction to allow appropriate management of their reproductive health and fertility.

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C Callies, T G Cooper, and C H Yeung

The nature of the membrane channels mediating water transport in murine spermatozoa adjusting to anisotonic conditions was investigated. The volume of spermatozoa subjected to physiologically relevant hypotonic conditions either simultaneously, or after isotonic pre-incubation, with putative water transport inhibitors was monitored. Experiments in which quinine prevented osmolyte efflux, and thus regulatory volume decrease (RVD), revealed whether water influx or efflux was being inhibited. There was no evidence that sodium-dependent solute transporters or facilitative glucose transporters were involved in water transport during RVD of murine spermatozoa since phloretin, cytochalasin B and phloridzin had no effect on volume regulation. However, there was evidence that Hg2 +- and Ag+-sensitive channels were involved in water transport and the possibility that they include aquaporin 8 is discussed. Toxic effects of these heavy metals were ruled out by evidence that mitochondrial poisons had no such effect on volume regulation.

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Aminoacyl naphthylamidases or aminopeptidases of the rat testicular tissue were fractionated by DEAE-cellulose chromatography and their subcellular site was evaluated by continuous sucrose gradient centrifugation. Four different enzymes were separated with distinct enzymatic properties.

Enzyme I preferentially hydrolysed methionyl-β-NA followed by valyl-, isoleucyl-, leucyl-, phenylalanyl- and alanyl-β-NA at pH 7·0. A slight activation with cysteine and EDTA and a marked inhibition with heavy metal ions was observed. This enzyme was connected to the particles of the mitochondrial—lysosomal fraction. Its main site of function is presumably within the testicular interstitial tissue.

Enzyme II readily hydrolysed a wide variety of substrates with preference for lysyl- and arginyl-β-NA at pH 6·8. It was markedly activated by chelating agents and sensitive to heavy metal ions as well as to some divalent metal ions. This enzyme was tentatively localized in membranous structures and exclusively in the testicular interstitial tissue.

Enzyme III showed the typical characteristics of aminopeptidase B with a marked activation by halide ions. It hydrolysed only arginyl- and lysyl-β-NA optimally at pH 6·5. It is a soluble enzyme and mainly located within the seminiferous tubules.

Enzyme IV showed a large substrate spectrum with optimum at pH 8·0. It was an SH-dependent soluble enzyme. Its main site was within the seminiferous tubules.

None of the four enzymes appear specific for testicular tissue since similar enzymes have been reported in other tissues. Their physiological significance can be evaluated with differential quantification during experimental conditions.

Free access

E Gómez, E Correia-Álvarez, J N Caamaño, C Díez, S Carrocera, N Peynot, D Martín, C Giraud-Delville, V Duranthon, O Sandra, and M Muñoz

Early in cow embryo development, hepatoma-derived growth factor (HDGF) is detectable in uterine fluid. The origin of HDGF in maternal tissues is unknown, as is the effect of the induction on developing embryos. Herein, we analyze HDGF expression in day 8 endometrium exposed to embryos, as well as the effects of recombinant HDGF (rHDGF) on embryo growth. Exposure to embryos did not alter endometrial levels of HDGF mRNA or protein. HDGF protein localized to cell nuclei in the luminal epithelium and superficial glands and to the apical cytoplasm in deep glands. After uterine passage, levels of embryonic HDGF mRNA decreased and HDGF protein was detected only in the trophectoderm. In fetal fibroblast cultures, addition of rHDGF promoted cell proliferation. In experiments with group cultures of morulae in protein-free medium containing polyvinyl alcohol, adding rHDGF inhibited blastocyst development and did not affect cell counts when the morulae were early (day 5), whereas it enhanced blastocyst development and increased cell counts when the morulae were compact (day 6). In cultures of individual day 6 morulae, adding rHDGF promoted blastocyst development and increased cell counts. Our experiments with rHDGF indicate that the growth factor stimulates embryonic development and cell proliferation. HDGF is synthesized similarly by the endometrium and embryo, and it may exert embryotropic effects by autocrine and/or paracrine mechanisms.

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Prostate gland fructose was measured enzymatically in normal and castrate mice. Regardless of protein precipitation procedure, castration resulted in a loss of prostatic fructose.

Prostate gland fructose levels were higher, using the resorcinol method, only when tricholoroacetic acid (TCA) was used to precipitate tissue proteins. Similar procedures employing supernatants obtained from barium hydroxide-zinc sulphate precipitated organs were comparable to enzymatically measured fructose.

The use of radio-active fructose and fructose-1,6-diphosphate established that heavy metal precipitation resulted in over 90% of the labelled fructose residing in the supernatant and a similar amount of phosphate ester found in the precipitate. The use of TCA to precipitate prostate gland proteins revealed that both fructose and fructose-1,6-diphosphate were predominantly found in the supernatant (93 and 95% respectively). Very little radio-activity was found in the precipitate fraction, indicating that TCA was unable to separate free hexose adequately from phosphate esters.

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T Leahy, JP Rickard, RJ Aitken, and SP de Graaf


Head-to-head agglutination of ram spermatozoa is induced by dilution in the Tyrode’s capacitation medium with albumin, lactate and pyruvate (TALP) and ameliorated by the addition of the thiol d-penicillamine (PEN). To better understand the association and disassociation of ram spermatozoa, we investigated the mechanism of action of PEN in perturbing sperm agglutination. PEN acts as a chelator of heavy metals, an antioxidant and a reducing agent. Chelation is not the main mechanism of action, as the broad-spectrum chelator ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid and the copper-specific chelator bathocuproinedisulfonic acid were inferior anti-agglutination agents compared with PEN. Oxidative stress is also an unlikely mechanism of sperm association, as PEN was significantly more effective in ameliorating agglutination than the antioxidants superoxide dismutase, ascorbic acid, α-tocopherol and catalase. Only the reducing agents cysteine and dl-dithiothreitol displayed similar levels of non-agglutinated spermatozoa at 0 h compared with PEN but were less effective after 3 h of incubation (37 °C). The addition of 10 µM Cu2+ to 250 µM PEN + TALP caused a rapid reversion of the motile sperm population from a non-agglutinated state to an agglutinated state. Other heavy metals (cobalt, iron, manganese and zinc) did not provoke such a strong response. Together, these results indicate that PEN prevents sperm association by the reduction of disulphide bonds on a sperm membrane protein that binds copper. ADAM proteins are possible candidates, as targeted inhibition of the metalloproteinase domain significantly increased the percentage of motile, non-agglutinated spermatozoa (52.0% ± 7.8) compared with TALP alone (10.6% ± 6.1).

Reproduction (2016) 151 1–10

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M. Kantola, M. Saaranen, and T. Vanha-Perttula

Summary. High levels of selenium and glutathione peroxidase (GSH-Px) were found in bull seminal plasma but low concentrations in human seminal plasma. In man the seminal plasma selenium was associated with two macromolecules separable by gel filtration, but no GSH-Px was found in the same fractions. Selenium in bull seminal plasma was associated with two proteins, which could be separated by gel filtration and anion exchange chromatography. Both macromolecules coeluted with GSH-Px activity and had identical optima at pH 7·0. Their responses to thermal treatment, however, differed. Seminal vesicle secretory fluid in the bull contained both these proteins, while the larger molecule was also found in fractionations of ampulla, prostate and Cowper's glands. The larger enzyme form is evidently a tetramer of the smaller one. Both enzyme forms were extremely sensitive to heavy metals and some divalent metal ions. GSH caused an activation while other reducing agents were suppressive. Triton X-100 had no effect, while sodium deoxycholate was inhibitory. These properties are typical for a phospholipid hydroperoxide GSH-Px. It is concluded that this selenium-dependent enzyme may be important in the protection of bovine spermatozoa against damage caused by oxygen radicals, while in man such a mechanism is not functional.

Keywords: selenium; glutathione peroxidase; seminal plasma; human; bull

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D. Tsatas, M. S. Baker, and G. E. Rice

A number of tightly regulated proteolytic enzyme systems, including the plasminogen activation cascade and matrix metalloproteases, play integral roles in the remodelling of extracellular matrices during pregnancy and parturition. This study assessed these labour-associated changes in protease activity in human gestational tissues. Amnion, choriodecidua and placenta collected from women before (at caesarean section, not in labour), during (at caesarean section, in labour) and after (spontaneous-onset labour, normal vaginal delivery) labour were examined on gelatin-substrate SDS-PAGE zymography. All tissues displayed major 55 kDa plasminogen-dependent activity that was abolished by the serine protease inhibitors (10 mmol phenylmethyl-sulphonylfluoride l−1, 100 mmol epsilon aminocaproic acid l−1, 1 mmol Glu-Gly-Arg chloromethylketone l−1). The enzymic activity was identified as urokinase plasminogen activator on the basis of its co-migration with reference standard and western blot analysis, and did not vary with labour status. An additional protease with an apparent molecular mass of approximately 90 kDa was detected in all tissues. Densitometric measurement of these tissues showed a significant (P < 0.05) increase in this enzyme activity with labour onset. Heavy metal chelators (1 mmol 1, 10 phenanthroline l−1 and 10 mmol EDTA l−1) selectively blocked the 90 kDa activity, consistent with the proposal that it is a metalloprotease. Co-migration with reference standard and western blot analysis confirmed the identity of this protease as the matrix metalloprotease 9 (MMP-9). Immunoreactive MMP-9 protein was also significantly (P < 0.05) increased during and after labour compared with before labour in all tissues examined. It is proposed that the upregulated expression of MMP-9 is involved in fetal membrane rupture and placental separation during and after labour onset, respectively. In conclusion, the regulated repertoire of protease activities expressed by human gestational tissues implies an important role for matrix-degrading enzymes during human parturition.