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Donald Rieger and Bruce D. Murphy

In a number of species, including rats and mice (Bartke, Steele, Musto & Caldwell, 1973), bulls (Katangole, Naftolin & Short, 1971), and rams (Purvis, Illius & Haynes, 1974), there is evidence of episodic fluctuation of circulating levels of testosterone. It has generally been concluded that testosterone is released from the testis in a pulsatile fashion, temporally related to the episodic release of LH (Katangole et al., 1971; Moor & YoungLai, 1975).

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Flavia L Lopes, Joëlle A Desmarais, and Bruce D Murphy

Embryonic diapause, a condition of temporary suspension of development of the mammalian embryo, occurs due to suppression of cell proliferation at the blastocyst stage. It is an evolutionary strategy to ensure the survival of neonates. Obligate diapause occurs in every gestation of some species, while facultative diapause ensues in others, associated with metabolic stress, usually lactation. The onset, maintenance and escape from diapause are regulated by cascades of environmental, hypophyseal, ovarian and uterine mechanisms that vary among species and between the obligate and facultative condition. In the best-known models, the rodents, the uterine environment maintains the embryo in diapause, while estrogens, in combination with growth factors, reinitiate development. Mitotic arrest in the mammalian embryo occurs at the G0 or G1 phase of the cell cycle, and may be due to expression of a specific cell cycle inhibitor. Regulation of proliferation in non- mammalian models of diapause provide clues to orthologous genes whose expression may regulate the reprise of proliferation in the mammalian context.

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Adrian Guzmán, Camilla H.k. Hughes, and Bruce D. Murphy

Orphan nuclear receptors (ONRs) are a subset of the nuclear receptor family that lack known endogenous ligands. Among 48 nuclear receptors identified in humans, 25 are classified as ONRs. They function as transcription factors and control expression of a wide range of genes to regulate metabolism, fertility, immunity, angiogenesis, and many other functions. Angiogenic factors are essential during ovarian follicle development, including follicle growth and ovulation,. Correct development of blood vessels contributes to preantral and antral follicular development, selection of the dominant follicle or follicles, follicular atresia, and ovulation. Although progress has been made in understanding the molecular mechanisms that regulate follicular angiogenesis, the role of ONRs as regulators is not clear. Based on their functions in other tissues, the ONRs NR1D1 (REV-ERBß), NR2C2 (TR4), NR2F2 (COUP-TF-II) and NR3B1, 2, and 3 (ERRα, ERRß and ERRγ) may modulate angiogenesis during antral follicle development. We hypothesize that this is achieved by effects on the expression and function of VEGFA, ANGPT1, THBS1, and soluble VEGFR1. Further, angiogenesis during ovulation is expected to be influenced by ONRs. NR5A2 (LRH-1), which is required for ovulation, regulates angiogenic genes in the ovary, including VEGFA and the upstream regulator of angiogenesis, PGE2. These angiogenic molecules may also be regulated by NR5A1 (SF-1). Evidence from outside the reproductive tract suggests that NR2F2 and NR4A1(NUR77) promote VEGFC and PGF respectively and NR4As (ΝUR77, NOR1) seem to be necessary for the angiogenic effects of VEGFA and PGE2. Together, the data suggest that ONRs are important regulators of follicular angiogenesis.

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Joëlle A Desmarais, Mingju Cao, Andrew Bateman, and Bruce D Murphy

Embryo implantation in the mink is preceded by a variable but obligate period of delay in development. Under the influence of progesterone and unknown luteal factors, the mink embryo implants 11–13 days following its exit from diapause. Recent work suggests that progranulin, a growth factor and secreted glycoprotein, is involved in trophoblast proliferation, placental development and endometrial differentiation in the mouse. Using the mink model of delayed implantation and endotheliochorial placentation, we examined the spatiotemporal distribution of progranulin in trophoblast and endometrium during pre- and early post-implantation gestation in vivo. A partial sequence of the mink progranulin gene was cloned and sequenced. Comparative sequence analysis revealed that exons 1 and 2 of mink progranulin share 86.6, 82.4, and 94.9% of nucleic acid sequence identity with the human, mouse, and dog sequences respectively, and indicated that the invariable residues of the cysteine-rich motifs of progranulin are well conserved in the mink sequence. By in situ hybridization, we show that mink progranulin transcript is present in the cytotrophoblast and in epithelial and stromal endometrial cells at the site of implantation and during early placental formation. Immunohistochemistry revealed the progranulin protein to be strongly expressed in endometrial luminal and glandular epithelium around the time of implantation. In the incipient labyrinth, progranulin expression is localized to cytotrophoblasts and fetal capillaries, as well as to the hypertrophied maternal endothelial cells. This study demonstrates that high levels of progranulin expression correspond to active cell proliferation, remodeling, and angiogenesis occurring during the establishment of the placenta in the mink.

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Marcelo M Seneda, Maren Godmann, Bruce D Murphy, Sarah Kimmins, and Vilceu Bordignon

Follicular growth and oogenesis involve highly dynamic changes in morphogenesis, chromatin structure, and gene transcription. The tight coordination of these events leads to ovulation of a mature oocyte and formation of the luteal tissue necessary to regulate embryo implantation and development. This entire process is regulated by numerous endocrine and in situ mechanisms. The role of epigenetic mechanisms in folliculogenesis, such as the biochemical modification of the DNA packaging proteins, the histones, is not well understood. Our objective was to determine the cellular and follicular stage-specific patterns of histone H3 methylation at lysine 4 (K4) in porcine preovulatory follicles and during luteinization in pig ovaries. Ovary tissues were collected from slaughtered prepubertal and cyclic gilts at various stages of the estrous cycle, pregnancy, and from ovaries recovered from gonatropin-treated gilts at 0, 24, and 38 h post human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) injection. Samples were fixed in 4% paraformaldehyde and processed for embedding in paraffin and sectioned using standard histological protocols. Immunofluorescent staining was performed on 3 μm thick sections. The immunostaining pattern of mono-, di-, and tri-methylated histone H3-K4 and lysine-specific demethylase 1 (LSD1, also known as KDM1 or AOF1) was assessed. Interestingly, H3-K4 mono-, di-, and tri-methylation in follicles of prepubertal gilts was specifically distributed and developmentally regulated. While granulosa cells of primary, secondary, and early antral follicles were negative for H3-K4 methylation those from large antral follicles showed a striking upregulation in the cells located in the proximity to the oocyte. Specifically, the cumulus oophorus displayed intense staining for H3-K4 methylation and signals were strongest in the granulosa cells in the inner two cell layers of the follicular wall. Although all oocytes from primary to large antral stage follicles were positive for H3-K4 mono-, di-, and tri-methylation, the patterns of distribution were altered through oocyte follicle development. H3-K4 methylation in granulosa cells was dramatically reduced as time to ovulation approached and was low to undetected at 38 h post hCG treatment. H3-K4 mono-, di-, and tri-methylation in large luteal cells increased as differentiation evolved but remained low in small luteal cells. Strikingly, LSD1 (KDM1) expression was found to be restricted to the corpus luteum. In summary, this study provides new information on histone H3-K4 methylation patterns in the oocyte and follicle during folliculogenesis, which suggests that these epigenetic markers serve an essential regulatory role during folliculogenesis.

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Daniel R Arnold, Vilceu Bordignon, Réjean Lefebvre, Bruce D Murphy, and Lawrence C Smith

Abnormal placental development limits success in ruminant pregnancies derived from somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT), due to reduction in placentome number and consequently, maternal/fetal exchange. In the primary stages of an epithelial–chorial association, the maternal/fetal interface is characterized by progressive endometrial invasion by specialized trophoblast binucleate/giant cells (TGC). We hypothesized that dysfunctional placentation in SCNT pregnancies results from aberration in expression of genes known to be necessary for trophoblast proliferation (Mash2), differentiation (Hand1), and function (IFN-τ and PAG-9). We, therefore, compared the expression of these factors in trophoblast from bovine embryos derived from artificial insemination (AI), in vitro fertilization (IVF), and SCNT prior to (day 17) and following (day 40 of gestation) implantation, as well as TGC densities and function. In preimplantation embryos, Mash2 mRNA was more abundant in SCNT embryos compared to AI, while Hand1 was highest in AI and IVF relative to SCNT embryos. IFN-τ mRNA abundance did not differ among groups. PAG-9 mRNA was undetectable in SCNT embryos, present in IVF embryos and highest in AI embryos. In postimplantation pregnancies, SCNT fetal cotyledons displayed higher Mash2 and Hand1 than AI and IVF tissues. Allelic expression of Mash2 was not different among the groups, which suggests that elevated mRNA expression was not due to altered imprinting status of Mash2. The day 40 SCNT cotyledons had the fewest number of TGC compared to IVF and AI controls. Thus, expression of genes critical to normal placental development is altered in SCNT bovine embryos, and this is expected to cause abnormal trophoblast differentiation and contribute to pregnancy loss.

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Etienne Lord, Bruce D Murphy, Joëlle A Desmarais, Sandra Ledoux, Danièle Beaudry, and Marie-France Palin

Recent evidence points to a role for peroxisome proliferator-activated receptors (PPARs) δ and γ in embryo implantation and survival. In this study, we report the porcine PPARδ complete coding sequence and mRNA abundance of PPARδ, PPARγ1 and γ2, angiopoietin-like protein 4 (ANGPTL4) and adipocyte determination and differentiation-dependent factor 1 (ADD1) genes in the pregnant sow endometrium. Real-time PCR analysis was used to study the effect of parity (Yorkshire-Landrace multiparous (YL) and nulliparous (YLn)), site of endometrial tissue sampling (between and at embryo attachment sites) in crossbred Duroc×Yorkshire-Landrace (DYL) sows and stages of pregnancy (non-pregnant, day 15 and day 25 after mating) in Meishan-Landrace (ML) on mRNA levels. Parity effects were observed for PPARδ, ANGPTL4, and ADD1, with higher mRNA levels in YL than YLn sows. In DYL sows, lower mRNA levels were present at attachment sites compared to between attachment sites for PPARδ, PPARγ1, and ANGPTL4. Finally, day 15 pregnant ML sows had lower PPARδ mRNA levels compared to day 15 cycling ML sows. A significant increase of PPARγ1 mRNA levels was found on day 25 pregnant ML and DYL sows relative to day 15 ML or DYL pregnant sows. PPARδ and γ immunostaining was detected in endometrial tissue of day 15 cycling sows, day 15 and 25 pregnant sows and epithelial cells of day 25 embryos. Collectively, our results suggest a role for PPARδ, PPARγ1, and ANGPTL4, but not PPARγ2, during the peri-implantation period in pregnant sows.