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Keqin Yan, Dingqing Feng, Jing Liang, Qing Wang, Lin Deng, Xiao Zhang, Bin Ling and Daishu Han

Viral infections of the ovary may perturb ovarian functions. However, the mechanisms underlying innate immune responses in the ovary are poorly understood. The present study demonstrates that cytosolic viral DNA sensor signaling initiates the innate immune response in mouse ovarian granulosa cells and affects endocrine function. The cytosolic DNA sensors p204 and cGAS and their common signaling adaptor stimulator of interferon (IFN) genes (STING) were constitutively expressed in granulosa cells. Transfection with VACV70, a synthetic vaccinia virus (VACV) DNA analog, induced the expression of type I interferons (IFNA/B) and major inflammatory cytokines (TNFA and IL6) through IRF3 and NF-κB activation respectively. Moreover, several IFN-inducible antiviral proteins, including 2′,5′-oligoadenylate synthetase, IFN-stimulating gene 15 and Mx GTPase 1, were also induced by VACV70 transfection. The innate immune responses in granulosa cells were significantly reduced by the transfection of specific small-interfering RNAs targeting p204, cGas or Sting. Notably, the VACV70-triggered innate immune responses affected steroidogenesis in vivo and in vitro. The data presented in this study describe the mechanism underlying ovarian immune responses to viral infection.

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BiJun Wang, Jing Li, QingLing Yang, FuLi Zhang, MengMeng Hao and YiHong Guo

This study aimed to explore the association between soluble receptor for advanced glycation end products (sRAGE) levels in follicular fluid and the number of oocytes retrieved and to evaluate the effect of sRAGE on vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) in granulosa cells in patients with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). Two sets of experiments were performed in this study. In part one, sRAGE and VEGF protein levels in follicular fluid samples from 39 patients with PCOS and 35 non-PCOS patients were measured by ELISA. In part two, ovarian granulosa cells were isolated from an additional 10 patients with PCOS and cultured. VEGF and SP1 mRNA and protein levels, as well as pAKT levels, were detected by real-time PCR and Western blotting after cultured cells were treated with different concentrations of sRAGE. Compared with the non-PCOS patients, patients with PCOS had lower sRAGE levels in follicular fluid. Multi-adjusted regression analysis showed that high sRAGE levels in follicular fluid predicted a lower Gn dose, more oocytes retrieved, and a better IVF outcome in the non-PCOS group. Logistic regression analysis showed that higher sRAGE levels predicted favorably IVF outcomes in the non-PCOS group. Multi-adjusted regression analysis also showed that high sRAGE levels in follicular fluid predicted a lower Gn dose in the PCOS group. Treating granulosa cells isolated from patients with PCOS with recombinant sRAGE decreased VEGF and SP1 mRNA and protein expression and pAKT levels in a dose-dependent manner.

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Zheng-Bin Han, Guo-Cheng Lan, Yan-Guang Wu, Dong Han, Wei-Guo Feng, Jun-Zuo Wang and Jing-He Tan

Using a well-in-drop (WID) oocyte/embryo culture system that allows identification of follicular origin, we have investigated the effects of granulosa cells (GCs) apoptosis, follicle size, cumulus–oocyte complexes (COCs) morphology, and cumulus expansion on the developmental competence of goat oocytes matured and cultured individually following parthenogenetic activation. The WID system supported oocyte maturation and embryo development to a level similar to the conventional group system. The majority of goat oocytes acquired competence for development up to the 8–16 cell stage in follicles larger than 2 mm, but did not gain the ability to form morula/blastocyst (M/Bs) until follicles larger than 3 mm in diameter. The extent of atresia affected M/Bs formation. This effect varied according to the follicle size. Cumulus expansion increased with follicle size and decreased with increasing incidence of GCs apoptosis. Oocyte developmental potential was also correlated with cumulus expansion. Regardless of the degree of follicle atresia, 73–84% of the floating cells in the follicular fluid (FF) underwent apoptosis. Correlation between floating cell density in FF and oocyte developmental potency suggests the possibility to use the floating cell density as a simple and non-invasive marker for oocyte quality. It is concluded that the developmental potential of an oocyte is determined by multifactor interactions, and multiple factors must be considered together to accurately predict the quality of an oocyte.

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Xing Su, Yi Hu, Ying Li, Jing-Li Cao, Xue-Qin Wang, Xu Ma and Hong-Fei Xia

Although the relationship between polymorphisms in microRNAs (miRNAs) and recurrent pregnancy loss (RPL) has been studied, there is very little data available in the literature. In the present study, we scanned 55 potentially functional polymorphisms in the miRNA coding region in Chinese women with unexplained RPL (URPL; no. 2011-10). The rs6505162 C>A in the MIR423 coding region was found to be significantly associated with the occurrence of human URPL. The rare A allele contributed to an increase in the expression of mature MIR423. C to A substitution in the polymorphism rs6505162 in pre-MIR423 repressed cell proliferation and migratory capacity. Further investigations showed that MIR423 could inversely regulate the expression of proliferation-associated 2 group 4 (PA2G4) by binding the 3′-UTR of PA2G4. Dual-luciferase assay indicated that the A allele in the polymorphism rs6505162 could more effectively suppress the expression of PA2G4 than the C allele could. Collectively, the present data suggest that rs6505162 C>A in pre-MIR423 may contribute to the genetic predisposition to RPL by disrupting the production of mature MIR423 and its target gene, which consequently interferes with MIR423 functioning.

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Guangyin Xi, Wenjing Wang, Sarfaraz A Fazlani, Fusheng Yao, Mingyao Yang, Jing Hao, Lei An and Jianhui Tian

Compared to ovarian antral follicle development, the mechanism underlying preantral follicle growth has not been well documented. Although C-type natriuretic peptide (CNP) involvement in preantral folliculogenesis has been explored, its detailed role has not been fully defined. Here, we used mouse preantral follicles and granulosa cells (GCs) as a model for investigating the dynamic expression of CNP and natriuretic peptide receptor 2 (NPR2) during preantral folliculogenesis, the regulatory role of oocyte-derived growth factors (ODGFs) in natriuretic peptide type C (Nppc) and Npr2 expression, and the effect of CNP on preantral GC viability. Both mRNA and protein levels of Nppc and Npr2 were gradually activated during preantral folliculogenesis. CNP supplementation in culture medium significantly promoted the growth of in vitro-cultured preantral follicles and enhanced the viability of cultured GCs in a follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH)-independent manner. Using adult and prepubertal mice as an in vivo model, CNP pre-treatment via intraperitoneal injection before conventional superovulation also had a beneficial effect on promoting the ovulation rate. Furthermore, ODGFs enhanced Nppc and Npr2 expression in the in vitro-cultured preantral follicles and GCs. Mechanistic study demonstrated that the regulation of WNT signaling and estrogen synthesis may be implicated in the promoting role of CNP in preantral folliculogenesis. This study not only proves that CNP is a critical regulator of preantral follicle growth, but also provides new insight in understanding the crosstalk between oocytes and somatic cells during early folliculogenesis.

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Ping Zhou, Yan-Guang Wu, Qing Li, Guo-Cheng Lan, Gang Wang, Da Gao and Jing-He Tan

To improve in vitro maturation (IVM) of denuded oocytes (DOs), we observed the interactive effects of cysteamine, cystine and cumulus cells on the glutathione (l-γ-glutamyl-l-cysteinyl-glycine; GSH) level and developmental capacity of goat IVM oocytes. Cysteamine supplementation increased the GSH level and blastocyst rates of both cumulus–oocyte complexes (COCs) and DOs, while the addition of cystine increased the GSH level and blastulation only in the presence of cumulus cells (COCs or DOs co-cultured on a cumulus cell monolayer). Simultaneous supplementation of cysteamine and cystine increased the GSH content and blastulation of co-cultured DOs to a level similar to that of COCs matured without thiol supplementation. Co-culture without thiol supplementation improved DOs' GSH synthesis but not blastulation. The results suggest that DOs cannot utilize cystine for GSH synthesis unless exogenous cysteamine is supplied by either cumulus cells or supplementation. Thus, while the addition of cystine alone is enough to improve IVM of COCs, improvement of DOs requires supplementation of both cystine and cysteamine. Synergic actions between cysteamine, cystine and cumulus cells restore the GSH level and developmental capacity of goat DOs.

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Jun-Zuo Wang, Hong-Shu Sui, De-Qiang Miao, Na Liu, Ping Zhou, Li Ge and Jing-He Tan

The objectives of this study were to investigate the effect of heat stress during in vitro maturation on the developmental potential of mouse oocytes and to determine whether the deleterious effect was on the nuclear or cytoplasmic component. While rates of oocyte nuclear maturation (development to the metaphase II stage) did not differ from 37 to 40 °C, rates for blastocyst formation decreased significantly as maturation temperature increased from 38.5 to 39 °C. Chromosome spindle exchange showed that while blastocyst formation did not differ when spindles matured in vivo or in vitro at 37, 40 or 40.7 °C were transplanted into in vivo matured cytoplasts, no blastocyst formation was observed when in vivo spindles were transferred into the 40 °C cytoplasts. While oocytes reconstructed between 37 °C ooplasts and 37 or 40 °C karyoplasts developed into 4-cell embryos at a similar rate, no oocytes reconstituted between 40 °C ooplasts and 37 °C spindles developed to the 4-cell stage. Immunofluorescence microscopy revealed impaired migration of cortical granules and mitochondria in oocytes matured at 40 °C compared with oocytes matured at 37 °C. A decreased glutathione/GSSG ratio was also observed in oocytes matured at 40 °C. While spindle assembling was normal and no MAD2 was activated in oocytes matured at 37 or 40 °C, spindle assembling was affected and MAD2 was activated in some of the oocytes matured at 40.7 °C. It is concluded that 1) oocyte cytoplasmic maturation is more susceptible to heat stress than nuclear maturation, and 2) cytoplasmic rather than nuclear components determine the pre-implantation developmental capacity of an oocyte.

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Meng-Ling Liu, Jing-Lei Wang, Jie Wei, Lin-Lin Xu, Mei Yu, Xiao-Mei Liu, Wen-Li Ruan and Jia-Xiang Chen

Tri-ortho-cresyl phosphate (TOCP) has been widely used as plasticizers, plastic softeners, and flame retardants in industry and reported to have a deleterious effect on the male reproductive system in animals besides delayed neurotoxicity. Our preliminary results found that TOCP could disrupt the seminiferous epithelium in the testis and inhibit spermatogenesis, but the precise mechanism is yet to be elucidated. This study shows that TOCP inhibited viability of rat spermatogonial stem cells in a dose-dependent manner. TOCP could not lead to cell cycle arrest in the cells; the mRNA levels of p21, p27, p53, and cyclin D1 in the cells were also not affected by TOCP. Meanwhile, TOCP did not induce apoptosis of rat spermatogonial stem cells. After treatment with TOCP, however, both LC3-II and the ratio of LC3-II/LC3-I were markedly increased; autophagy proteins ATG5 and beclin 1 were also increased after treatment with TOCP, indicating that TOCP could induce autophagy in the cells. Ultrastructural observation under the transmission electron microscopy indicated that autophagic vesicles in the cytoplasm containing extensively degraded organelles such as mitochondria and endoplasmic reticulum increased significantly after the cells were treated with TOCP. In summary, we have shown that TOCP can inhibit viability of rat spermatogonial stem cells and induce autophagy of the cells, without affecting cell cycle and apoptosis.

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Hua-Yu Lian, Yan Gao, Guang-Zhong Jiao, Ming-Ju Sun, Xiu-Fen Wu, Tian-Yang Wang, Hong Li and Jing-He Tan

In this study, using a mouse model, we tested the hypothesis that restraint stress would impair the developmental potential of oocytes by causing oxidative stress and that antioxidant supplementation could overcome the adverse effect of stress-induced oxidative stress. Female mice were subjected to restraint stress for 24 h starting 24 h after equine chorionic gonadotropin injection. At the end of stress exposure, mice were either killed to recover oocytes for in vitro maturation (IVM) or injected with human chorionic gonadotropin and caged with male mice to observe in vivo development. The effect of antioxidants was tested in vitro by adding them to IVM medium or in vivo by maternal injection immediately before restraint stress exposure. Assays carried out to determine total oxidant and antioxidant status, oxidative stress index, and reactive oxygen species (ROS) and glutathione levels indicated that restraint stress increased oxidative stress in mouse serum, ovaries, and oocytes. Whereas the percentage of blastocysts and number of cells per blastocyst decreased significantly in oocytes from restraint-stressed mice, addition of antioxidants to IVM medium significantly improved their blastocyst development. Supplementation of cystine and cysteamine to IVM medium reduced ROS levels and aneuploidy while increasing glutathione synthesis and improving pre- and postimplantation development of oocytes from restraint-stressed mice. Furthermore, injection of the antioxidant epigallocatechin gallate into restraint-stressed mice significantly improved the blastocyst formation and postimplantation development of their oocytes. In conclusion, restraint stress at the oocyte prematuration stage impaired the developmental potential of oocytes by increasing oxidative stress and addition of antioxidants to IVM medium or maternal antioxidant injection overcame the detrimental effect of stress-induced oxidative stress. The data reported herein are helpful when making attempts to increase the chances of a successful outcome in human IVF, because restraint was applied at a stage similar to the FSH stimulation period in a human IVF program.

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Na Liu, Yan-Guang Wu, Guo-Cheng Lan, Hong-Shu Sui, Li Ge, Jun-Zuo Wang, Yong Liu, Tian-Wu Qiao and Jing-He Tan

Inhibiting oocyte aging is important not only for healthy reproduction but also for the success of assisted reproduction techniques. Although our previous studies showed that cumulus cells accelerated aging of mouse oocytes, the underlying mechanism is unknown. The objective of this paper was to study the effects of pyruvate and cumulus cells on mouse oocyte aging. Freshly ovulated mouse cumulus–oocyte complexes (COCs) or cumulus-denuded oocytes (DOs) were cultured in Chatot-Ziomek-Bavister (CZB) medium or COC-conditioned CZB medium supplemented with different concentrations of pyruvate before being examined for aging signs and developmental potential. Pyruvate supplementation to CZB medium decreased rates of ethanol-induced activation in both COCs and DOs by maintaining their maturation-promoting factor activities, but more pyruvate was needed for COCs than for DOs. Addition of pyruvate to the COC-conditioned CZB also alleviated aging of DOs. Observations on cortical granules, level of BCL2 proteins, histone acetylation, intracellular concentration of glutathione, and embryo development all confirmed that pyruvate supplementation inhibited aging of mouse oocytes. It is concluded that the aging of mouse oocytes, facilitated by culture in COCs, can be partially prevented by the addition of pyruvate to the culture medium.