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Yuchuan Zhou, Yanfei Ru, Huijuan Shi, Yanjiao Wang, Bin Wu, Halmurat Upur and Yonglian Zhang

Cholecystokinin (CCK), a peptide hormone and a neurotransmitter, was detected in mature sperm two decades ago. However, the exact role of CCK and the types of CCK receptors (now termed CCK1 and CCK2) in sperm have not been identified. Here, we find that CCK1 and CCK2 receptors are immunolocalized to the acrosomal region of mature sperm. The antagonist of CCK1 or CCK2 receptor strongly activated the soluble adenylyl cyclase/cAMP/protein kinase A signaling pathway that drives sperm capacitation-associated protein tyrosine phosphorylation in dose- and time-dependent manners. But these actions of stimulation were abolished when sperm were incubated in the medium in the absence of HCO3 . Further investigation demonstrated that the inhibitor of CCK1 or CCK2 receptor could accelerate the uptake of HCO3 and significantly elevate the intracellular pH of sperm. Interestingly, the synthetic octapeptide of CCK (CCK8) showed the same action and mechanism as antagonists of CCK receptors. Moreover, CCK8 and the antagonist of CCK1 or CCK2 receptor were also able to accelerate human sperm capacitation-associated protein tyrosine phosphorylation by stimulating the influx of HCO3 . Thus, the present results suggest that CCK and its receptors may regulate sperm capacitation-associated protein tyrosine phosphorylation by modulating the uptake of HCO3 .

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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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Wei-Bin Wu, Yue-Ying Xu, Wei-Wei Cheng, Bo Yuan, Jiu-Ru Zhao, Yan-Lin Wang and Hui-Juan Zhang

Fetal growth restriction (FGR) threatens perinatal health and is correlated with increased incidence of fetal original adult diseases. Most cases of FGR were idiopathic, which were supposed to be associated with placental abnormality. Decreased circulating placental growth factor (PGF) was recognized as an indication of placental deficiency in FGR. In this study, the epigenetic regulation of PGF in FGR placentas and the involvement of PGF in modulation of trophoblast activity were investigated. The expression level of PGF in placental tissues was determined by RT-qPCR, immunohistochemistry and ELISA. DNA methylation profile of PGF gene was analyzed by bisulfite sequencing. Trophoblastic cell lines were treated with ZM-306416, an inhibitor of PGF receptor FLT1, to observe the effect of PGF/FLT1 signaling on cell proliferation and migration. We demonstrated that PGF was downregulated in placentas from FGR pregnancies compared with normal controls. The villous expression of PGF was positively correlated with placental and fetal weight. The CpG island inside PGF promoter was hypomethylated without obvious difference in both normal and FGR placentas. However, the higher DNA methylation at another CpG island downstream exon 7 of PGF was demonstrated in FGR placentas. Additionally, we found FLT1 was expressed in trophoblast cells. Inhibition of PGF/FLT1 signaling by a selective inhibitor impaired trophoblast proliferation and migration. In conclusion, our data suggested that the PGF expression was dysregulated, and disrupted PGF/FLT1 signaling in trophoblast might contribute to placenta dysfunction in FGR. Thus, our results support the significant role of PGF in the pathogenesis of FGR.

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Shu-Fang Wang, Xi-Hua Chen, Bin He, De-Dong Yin, Hai-Jun Gao, Hao-Qi Zhao, Nan Nan, Shi-Ge Guo, Jian-Bing Liu, Bin Wu and Xiang-Bo Xu

Stress impacts the reproductive axis at the level of the hypothalamus and the pituitary gland, which exert an effect on the ovary. Menstruation is regulated by the hypothalamic–pituitary–ovary (HPO) axis. However, the role of stress in menstruation remains unclear. The objective of this study was to explore the role of stress in endometrial breakdown and shedding, using the pseudopregnant mouse menstrual-like model. Female mice were mated with vasectomized males and labeled day 0.5, upon observation of a vaginal seminal plug. On day 3.5, decidualization was induced in pseudopregnant mice using arachis oil. On day 5.5, pseudopregnant mice with artificial decidualization were placed in restraint tubes for 3 h. The findings indicated that acute restraint stress resulted in the disintegration of the endometrium. While corticosterone concentration in the serum increased significantly due to restraint stress, follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), luteinizing hormone (LH) and progesterone (P4) levels in the serum decreased significantly. An endometrial histology examination indicated that progesterone implants may rescue P4 decline caused by acute stress and block endometrium breakdown and shedding. In addition, mice were treated with metyrapone, an inhibitor of corticosterone synthesis, 1 h prior to being subjected to restraint stress. Interestingly, metyrapone not only inhibited stress-induced endometrium breakdown and shedding, but also prevented stress-induced reduction of P4, LH and FSH. Furthermore, real-time PCR and western blot showed that mRNA and protein expression of CYP11A1 (cytochrome P450, family 11, subfamily A, polypeptide 1) and steroidogenic acute regulatory protein (StAR), the two rate-limiting enzymes for progesterone synthesis in the ovary, decreased following acute stress. But metyrapone prevented the reduction of StAR expression induced by restraint stress. Overall, this study revealed that acute stress results in an increase in corticosterone, which may inhibit LH and FSH release in the serum and CYP11A1 and StAR expression in the ovary, which finally leads to the breakdown and shedding of the endometrium. These experimental findings, based on the mouse model, may enable further understanding of the effects of stress on menstruation regulation and determine the potential factors affecting stress-associated menstrual disorders.