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Hao Zhang, Lingwei Sun, Ziyu Wang, Mingtian Deng, Haitao Nie, Guomin Zhang, Tiewei Ma, and Feng Wang


The objectives of this study were to determine how dietary supplementation of N-carbamylglutamate (NCG) and rumen-protected L-arginine (RP-Arg) in nutrient-restricted pregnant Hu sheep would affect (1) maternal endocrine status; (2) maternal, fetal, and placental antioxidation capability; and (3) placental development. From day 35 to day 110 of gestation, 32 Hu ewes carrying twin fetuses were allocated randomly into four groups: 100% of NRC-recommended nutrient requirements, 50% of NRC recommendations, 50% of NRC recommendations supplemented with 20g/day RP-Arg, and 50% of NRC recommendations supplemented with 5g/day NCG product. The results showed that in maternal and fetal plasma and placentomes, the activities of total antioxidant capacity and superoxide dismutase were increased (P<0.05); however, the activity of glutathione peroxidase and the concentration of maleic dialdehyde were decreased (P<0.05) in both NCG- and RP-Arg-treated underfed ewes. The mRNA expression of vascular endothelial growth factor and Fms-like tyrosine kinase 1 was increased (P<0.05) in 50% NRC ewes than in 100% NRC ewes, and had no effect (P>0.05) in both NCG- and RP-Arg-treated underfed ewes. A supplement of RP-Arg and NCG reduced (P<0.05) the concentrations of progesterone, cortisol, and estradiol-17β; had no effect on T4/T3; and improved (P<0.05) the concentrations of leptin, insulin-like growth factor 1, tri-iodothyronine (T3), and thyroxine (T4) in serum from underfed ewes. These results indicate that dietary supplementation of NCG and RP-Arg in underfed ewes could influence maternal endocrine status, improve the maternal–fetal–placental antioxidation capability, and promote fetal and placental development during early-to-late gestation.

Free access

Jiaojiao Huang, Hongyong Zhang, Jing Yao, Guosong Qin, Feng Wang, Xianlong Wang, Ailing Luo, Qiantao Zheng, Chunwei Cao, and Jianguo Zhao

Accumulating evidence suggests that faulty epigenetic reprogramming leads to the abnormal development of cloned embryos and results in the low success rates observed in all mammals produced through somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT). The aberrant methylation status of H3K9me and H3K9me2 has been reported in cloned mouse embryos. To explore the role of H3K9me2 and H3K9me in the porcine somatic cell nuclear reprogramming, BIX-01294, known as a specific inhibitor of G9A (histone-lysine methyltransferase of H3K9), was used to treat the nuclear-transferred (NT) oocytes for 14–16 h after activation. The results showed that the developmental competence of porcine SCNT embryos was significantly enhanced both in vitro (blastocyst rate 16.4% vs 23.2%, P<0.05) and in vivo (cloning rate 1.59% vs 2.96%) after 50 nm BIX-01294 treatment. BIX-01294 treatment significantly decreased the levels of H3K9me2 and H3K9me at the 2- and 4-cell stages, which are associated with embryo genetic activation, and increased the transcriptional expression of the pluripotency genes SOX2, NANOG and OCT4 in cloned blastocysts. Furthermore, the histone acetylation levels of H3K9, H4K8 and H4K12 in cloned embryos were decreased after BIX-01294 treatment. However, co-treatment of activated NT oocytes with BIX-01294 and Scriptaid rescued donor nuclear chromatin from decreased histone acetylation of H4K8 that resulted from exposure to BIX-01294 only and consequently improved the preimplantation development of SCNT embryos (blastocyst formation rates of 23.7% vs 21.5%). These results indicated that treatment with BIX-01294 enhanced the developmental competence of porcine SCNT embryos through improvements in epigenetic reprogramming and gene expression.

Free access

Zhen Teng, Chao Wang, Yijing Wang, Kun Huang, Xi Xiang, Wanbao Niu, Lizhao Feng, Lihua Zhao, Hao Yan, and Hua Zhang

The reserve of primordial follicles determines the reproductive ability of the female mammal over its reproductive life. The primordial follicle is composed of two types of cells: oocytes and surrounding pre-granulosa cells. However, the underlying mechanism regulating primordial follicle assembly is largely undefined. In this study, we found that gap junction communication (GJC) established between the ovarian cells in the perinatal mouse ovary may be involved in the process. First, gap junction structures between the oocyte and surrounding pre-granulosa cells appear at about 19.0 dpc (days post coitum). As many as 12 gap junction-related genes are upregulated at birth, implying that a complex communication may exist between ovarian cells, because specifically silencing the genes of individual gap junction proteins, such as Gja 1, Gja4 or both, has no influence on primordial follicle assembly. On the other hand, non-specific blockers of GJC, such as carbenoxolone (CBX) and 18α-glycyrrhetinic acid (AGA), significantly inhibit mouse primordial follicle assembly. We proved that the temporal window for establishment of GJC in the fetal ovary is from 19.5 dpc to 1 dpp (days postpartum). In addition, the expression of ovarian somatic cell (OSC)-specific genes, such as Notch2, Foxl2 and Irx3, was negatively affected by GJC blockers, whereas oocyte-related genes, such as Ybx2, Nobox and Sohlh1, were hardly affected, implying that the establishment of GJC during this period may be more important to OSCs than to oocytes. In summary, our results indicated that GJC involves in the mouse primordial follicle assembly process at a specific temporal window that needs Notch signaling cross-talking.

Open access

Feng Wang, Zheng Chen, Xiaofang Ren, Ye Tian, Fucheng Wang, Chao Liu, Pengcheng Jin, Zongyue Li, Feixiong Zhang, and Baochang Zhu

Hormone-sensitive lipase-knockout (HSL−/−) mice exhibit azoospermia for unclear reasons. To explore the basis of sterility, we performed the following three experiments. First, HSL protein distribution in the testis was determined. Next, transcriptome analyses were performed on the testes of three experimental groups. Finally, the fatty acid and cholesterol levels in the testes with three different genotypes studied were determined. We found that the HSL protein was present from spermatocyte cells to mature sperm acrosomes in wild-type (HSL+/+) testes. Spermiogenesis ceased at the elongation phase of HSL−/− testes. Transcriptome analysis indicated that genes involved in lipid metabolism, cell membrane, reproduction and inflammation-related processes were disordered in HSL−/− testes. The cholesterol content was significantly higher in HSL−/− than that in HSL+/+ testis. Therefore, gene expression and cholesterol ester content differed in HSL−/− testes compared to other testes, which may explain the sterility of male HSL−/− mice.

Restricted access

Yuan Yuan, Ling Zhao, Xiaoying Wang, Feng Lian, and Yan Cai

Preeclampsia (PE), a serious complication of pregnancy, is associated with abnormal trophoblast cell differentiation and autophagy. Herein, we investigated the molecular mechanism underlying the function of ligustrazine (2,3,5,6-tetramethylpyrazine, TMP), a constituent of the traditional Chinese plant medicine Ligusticum wallichii, in PE. Lipopolysaccharide (LPS) was applied to induce a PE rat model, followed by tail vein injection of TMP or lentiviral vector overexpressing microRNA-16-5p (miR-16-5p). Human trophoblast cell line JEG3 was cultured in vitro to construct a PE cell model, followed by t he treatment with different concentrations of TMP, miR-16-5p mimic/inhibitor, or shRNA (shRNA) against insulin growth factor-2 (IGF-2) (sh-IGF-2). Formation of autophagosomes and autophagy-related proteins were then examined. Cell counting kit-8 (CCK-8) and Transwell assays were applied to measure trophoblast cell viability and migration. The binding affinity between miR-16-5p and IGF-2 was verified by dual luciferase report assay. After TMP treatment, autophagosome formation was reduced in trophoblast cells of placental tissue of PE rats, along with downregulation of autophagy-related proteins Light Chain 3 (LC3)-II/LC3-I, Beclin1 (BECN1), and SQSTM1. Moreover, TMP repressed JEG3 cell autophagy, promoted viability and migration concentration-responsively. MiR-16-5p was upregulated in PE, and TMP inhibited miR-16-5p expression. Besides, miR-16-5p downregulated IGF-2 expression to promote cell autophagy and inhibit the viability and migration of JEG3 cells. Further, in vivo experiments validated that TMP impeded PE progression in rats by regulating the miR-16-5p/IGF-2 axis. In summary, TMP inhibits trophoblast cell autophagy and promotes its viability and migration in PE rat model through regulating the miR-16-5p/IGF-2 axis.

Open access

Hang Qi, Guiling Liang, Jin Yu, Xiaofeng Wang, Yan Liang, Xiaoqing He, Tienan Feng, and Jian Zhang

MicroRNA (miRNA) expression profiles in tubal endometriosis (EM) are still poorly understood. In this study, we analyzed the differential expression of miRNAs and the related gene networks and signaling pathways in tubal EM. Four tubal epithelium samples from tubal EM patients and five normal tubal epithelium samples from uterine leiomyoma patients were collected for miRNA microarray. Bioinformatics analyses, including Ingenuity Pathway Analysis (IPA), Gene Ontology (GO) analysis and Kyoto Encyclopedia of Genes and Genomes (KEGG) pathway analysis, were performed. Quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction (qRT-PCR) validation of five miRNAs was performed in six tubal epithelium samples from tubal EM and six from control. A total of 17 significantly differentially expressed miRNAs and 4343 potential miRNA-target genes involved in tubal EM were identified (fold change >1.5 and FDR-adjusted P value <0.05). IPA indicated connections between miRNAs, target genes and other gynecological diseases like endometrial carcinoma. GO and KEGG analysis revealed that most of the identified genes were involved in the mTOR signaling pathway, SNARE interactions in vesicular transport and endocytosis. We constructed an miRNA-gene-disease network using target gene prediction. Functional analysis showed that the mTOR pathway was connected closely to tubal EM. Our results demonstrate for the first time the differentially expressed miRNAs and the related signal pathways involved in the pathogenesis of tubal EM which contribute to elucidating the pathogenic mechanism of tubal EM-related infertility.

Free access

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.

Free access

Shijia Ying, Ziyu Wang, Changlong Wang, Haitao Nie, Dongyang He, Ruoxin Jia, Yongcong Wu, Yongjie Wan, Zhengrong Zhou, Yibo Yan, Yanli Zhang, and Feng Wang

This study investigated the effects of short-term food restriction or supplementation on folliculogenesis and plasma and intrafollicular metabolite and hormone concentrations. Ewes were randomly assigned to three groups: the control group received a maintenance diet (M) while the supplemented group and restricted group received 1.5×M and 0.5×M respectively on days 6–12 of their estrous cycle. Estrus was synchronized by intravaginal progestogen sponges for 12 days. On days 7–12, blood samples were taken. After slaughter, the ovarian follicles were classified and the follicular fluid was collected. Compared with restriction, supplementation shortened the estrous cycle length, decreased the number of follicles 2.5–3.5 mm and follicular fluid estradiol (E2) concentration, increased the number of follicles >3.5 mm and plasma glucose, insulin and glucagon concentrations, and augmented the volume of follicles >2.5 mm. Restricted ewes had higher intrafollicular insulin concentration, but it was similar to that of supplemented ewes. Compared with follicles ≤2.5 mm, the intrafollicular glucose and E2 concentrations were increased and the testosterone, insulin, and glucagon concentrations and lactate dehydrogenase (LDH) activity were decreased in follicles >2.5 mm. Only in restricted ewes were intrafollicular LDH and testosterone concentrations in follicles ≤2.5 mm not different from those in follicles ≤2.5 mm. In conclusion, the mechanism by which short-term dietary restriction inhibits folliculogenesis may involve responses to intrafollicular increased E2, testosterone, and LDH levels in late-stage follicles. This may not be due to the variation of intrafollicular insulin level but rather due to decreased circulating levels of glucose, insulin, and glucagon.

Free access

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.

Free access

Guo-Min Zhang, Ming-Tian Deng, Zhi-Hai Lei, Yong-Jie Wan, Hai-Tao Nie, Zi-Yu Wang, Yi-Xuan Fan, Feng Wang, and Yan-Li Zhang

During goat follicular development, abnormal expression of nuclear respiratory factor 1 (NRF1) in granulosa cells may drive follicular atresia with unknown regulatory mechanisms. In this study, we investigated the effects of NRF1 on steroidogenesis and cell apoptosis by overexpressing or silencing it in goat luteinized granulosa cells (LGCs). Results showed that knockdown of NRF1 expression significantly inhibited the expression of STAR and CYP19A1, which are involved in sex steroid hormones synthesis, and led to lower estrogen levels. Knockdown of NRF1 resulted in an increased percentage of apoptosis, probably due to the release of cytochrome c from mitochondria, accompanied by upregulating mRNA and protein levels of apoptosis-related markers BAX, caspase 3 and caspase 9. These data indicate that NRF1 might be related with steroidogenesis and cell apoptosis. Furthermore, NRF1 silence reduced mitochondrial transcription factor A (TFAM) transcription activity, mtDNA copy number and ATP level. Simultaneously, knockdown of NRF1 suppressed the transcription and translation levels of SOD, GPx and CAT, decreased glutathione level and increased 8-OHdG level. However, the overexpression of NRF1 in LGCs or gain of TFAM in NRF1 silenced LGCs increased the expression of genes involved in mitochondrial function and biogenesis, and elevated the antioxidant stress system and steroids synthesis. Taken together, aberrant expression of NRF1 could induce mitochondrial dysfunction and disturb the cellular redox balance, which lead to disturbance of steroid hormone synthesis, and trigger LGC apoptosis through the mitochondria-dependent pathway. These findings will be helpful for understanding the role of NRF1 in goat ovarian follicular development and atresia.