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V L Bosquiazzo, J G Ramos, J Varayoud, M Muñoz-de-Toro, and E H Luque

Vascular growth of the uterine cervix during pregnancy is associated with mast cell (MC) degranulation. To better understand the mechanism underlying this process, uterine cervices of intact pregnant rats were dissected and endothelial cell proliferation was measured by a bromodeoxyuridine incorporation technique. Total vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) mRNA expression and the relative abundance of VEGF splice variants (120, 164, and 188) were determined by RT-PCR. VEGF protein expression was evaluated by immunohistochemistry. To investigate the role of MCs on cervical angiogenesis, a second set of pregnant animals were treated with an MC stabilizer (disodium cromoglycate) to inhibit MC degranulation. Furthermore, 17β-estradiol (E2) serum levels were established by RIA. In intact pregnant rats, VEGF mRNA expression was positively correlated with endothelial cell proliferation and circulating E2 levels. All selected splice variants of VEGF gene were detected and their relative abundance did not show any change throughout pregnancy. Animals treated with disodium cromoglycate showed a decrease in endothelial cell proliferation and in VEGF mRNA expression compared with controls. Relative abundance of VEGF mRNA splice variants and E2 serum levels showed no differences between these experimental groups. These results show a time-dependent correlation between VEGF mRNA expression and E2 serum levels in the uterine cervix of intact pregnant rats, while MC stabilizer-treated animals reduced the VEGF expression without modifying E2 serum levels. We suggest that cervical angiogenesis during pregnancy could be regulated by a mechanism which involves endogenous E2 and chemical mediators stored in MC granules via a VEGF-dependent pathway.

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J Varayoud, J G Ramos, V L Bosquiazzo, M Muñoz-de-Toro, and E H Luque

During pregnancy, it is essential that sufficient nutrients are supplied by the vascular system to support the dramatic modifications of the rat uterine cervix. Angiogenesis refers to the growth of new blood vessels from pre-existing microcirculation and mast cells have been associated with this process. This study examined the modifications of the vascular compartment and the distribution of mast cells on cervical tissue during pregnancy. Using disodium cromoglycate as a mast cell stabilizer, we determined the effects of the mast cell degranulation on cervical angiogenesis. Mast cell distribution and their degranulation status were evaluated by immunohistochemistry. Endothelial cell proliferation was measured by bromodeoxyuridine incorporation. Vascular areas (absolute and relative) and maturation indices were assessed by quantitative immunohistochemistry of von Willebrand factor and α-smooth muscle actin respectively. Mast cells were predominantly observed during the first half of pregnancy in the perivascular zones. The values of bromodeoxyuridine incorporation, absolute vascular area and vascular maturation index exhibited a significant increase throughout pregnancy. All animals that received mast cell stabilizer showed more than 40% of non-degranulated mast cells. Treated rats exhibited a decrease in endothelial proliferation and in relative vascular area; in addition, a large proportion of mature blood vessels was observed, suggesting a diminished level of new vessel formation. The effects of the mast cell stabilizer were sustained beyond the end of treatment. This is the first report that brings evidence that mast cell degranulation could be a necessary process to contribute to the normal angiogenesis of the rat cervix during pregnancy. Further investigations are needed to elucidate the possible implications of abnormal vascular development of the uterine cervix on the physiological process of ripening and parturition.

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P J Torres, E M Luque, M F Ponzio, V Cantarelli, M Diez, S Figueroa, L M Vincenti, V P Carlini, and A C Martini

The purpose of this study was to evaluate the intragestational role of ghrelin in offspring development and reproductive programming in a mouse model of ghrelin imbalance during pregnancy. Female mice were injected with ghrelin (supraphysiological levels: 4 nmol/animal/day), antagonist (endogenous ghrelin inhibition with (D-Lys3)GHRP-6, 6 nmol/animal/day) or vehicle (control = normal ghrelin levels) throughout the pregnancy. Parameters evaluated in litters were growth, physical, neurobiological and sexual development and, at adulthood, reproductive function. Litter size and initial weight did not vary between treatments. Male pups from dams treated with ghrelin showed higher body weight increase until adulthood (31.7 ± 0.8 vs control = 29.7 ± 0.7, n = 11–14 litters/treatment; P < 0.05). Postnatal physical and neurobiological development was not modified by treatments. The antagonist accelerated male puberty onset, evidenced as earlier testis descent and increased relative testicular weight (antagonist = 0.5 ± 0.0% vs ghrelin = 0.4 ± 0.0% and control = 0.4 ± 0.0%, n = 5–10 litters/treatment; P < 0.05). At adulthood, these males exhibited lower relative testicular weight and reduced sperm motility (63.9 ± 3.6% vs control = 70.9 ± 3.3 and ghrelin = 75.6 ± 3.0, n = 13–15 animals; P < 0.05), without changes in plasma testosterone or fertility. Female pups intragestationally exposed to the antagonist showed earlier vaginal opening (statistically significant only at Day 25) and higher ovarian volume (antagonist = 1085.7 ± 64.0 mm3 vs ghrelin = 663.3 ± 102.8 mm3 and control = 512.3 ± 116.4 mm3; n = 4–6 animals/treatment; P < 0.05), indicating earlier sexual maturation. At adulthood, these females and those exposed to ghrelin showed a tendency to higher percentages of embryo loss and/or foetal atrophy. In conclusion, ghrelin participates in reproductive foetal programming: alterations in ghrelin activity during pregnancy modified body weight increase and anticipated puberty onset, exerting (or tending to) negative effects on adult reproductive function.

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Oscar E Rivera, Jorgelina Varayoud, Horacio A Rodríguez, Clarisa G Santamaría, Verónica L Bosquiazzo, Mario Osti, Norberto M Belmonte, Mónica Muñoz-de-Toro, and Enrique H Luque

Bisphenol A (BPA) and diethylstilbestrol (DES) are xenoestrogens, which have been associated with altered effects on reproduction. We hypothesized that neonatal xenoestrogen exposure affects the ovarian functionality in lambs. Thus, we evaluated the ovarian response to exogenous ovine FSH (oFSH) administered from postnatal day 30 (PND30) to PND32 in female lambs previously exposed to low doses of DES or BPA (BPA50: 50 μg/kg per day, BPA0.5: 0.5 μg/kg per day) from PND1 to PND14. We determined: i) follicular growth, ii) circulating levels of 17β-estradiol (E2), iii) steroid receptors (estrogen receptor alpha, estrogen receptor beta, and androgen receptor (AR)) and atresia, and iv) mRNA expression levels of the ovarian bone morphogenetic protein (BMPs) system (BMP6, BMP15, BMPR1B, and GDF9) and FSH receptor (FSHR). Lambs neonatally exposed to DES or BPA showed an impaired ovarian response to oFSH with a lower number of follicles ≥2 mm in diameter together with a lower number of atretic follicles and no increase in E2 serum levels in response to oFSH treatment. In addition, AR induction by oFSH was disrupted in granulosa and theca cells of lambs exposed to DES or BPA. An increase in GDF9 mRNA expression levels was observed in oFSH-primed lambs previously treated with DES or BPA50. In contrast, a decrease in BMPR1B was observed in BPA0.5-postnatally exposed lambs. The modifications in AR, GDF 9, and BMPR1B may be associated with the altered ovarian function due to neonatal xenoestrogen exposure in response to an exogenous gonadotropin stimulus. These alterations may be the pathophysiological basis of subfertility syndrome in adulthood.