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Hui Peng, Haijun Liu, Fang Liu, Yuyun Gao, Jing Chen, Jianchao Huo, Jinglin Han, Tianfang Xiao and Wenchang Zhang

Nlrp2 is a maternal effect gene specifically expressed by mouse ovaries; deletion of this gene from zygotes is known to result in early embryonic arrest. In the present study, we identified FAF1 protein as a specific binding partner of the NLRP2 protein in both mouse oocytes and preimplantation embryos. In addition to early embryos, both Faf1 mRNA and protein were detected in multiple tissues. NLRP2 and FAF1 proteins were co-localized to both the cytoplasm and nucleus during the development of oocytes and preimplantation embryos. Co-immunoprecipitation assays were used to confirm the specific interaction between NLRP2 and FAF1 proteins. Knockdown of the Nlrp2 or Faf1 gene in zygotes interfered with the formation of a NLRP2–FAF1 complex and led to developmental arrest during early embryogenesis. We therefore conclude that NLRP2 interacts with FAF1 under normal physiological conditions and that this interaction is probably essential for the successful development of cleavage-stage mouse embryos. Our data therefore indicated a potential role for NLRP2 in regulating early embryo development in the mouse.

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Tao Yu, Shuai Lin, Rui Xu, Tian-Xi Du, Yang Li, Hui Gao, Hong-Lu Diao and Xiu-Hong Zhang

Embryo implantation is a crucial step for the successful establishment of mammalian pregnancy. Cyclophilin A (CYPA) is a ubiquitously expressed intracellular protein and is secreted in response to inflammatory stimuli to regulate diverse cellular functions. However, there are currently no reports about the role of CYPA in embryo implantation. Here, we examine the expression pattern of CYPA during mouse early pregnancy and explore the potential role of CYPA during implantation. CYPA is expressed in the subluminal stroma surrounding the implanting blastocyst on day 5 of pregnancy, but not at inter-implantation sites. In ovariectomized mice, estrogen and progesterone significantly stimulate CYPA expression. When pregnant mice are injected intraperitoneally with CYPA inhibitor, the numbers of implantation sites are significantly reduced. Using an in vitro stromal cell culture system, Ppia siRNA knockdown of CYPA and CYPA-specific inhibitor treatment partially inhibits levels of CD147, MMP3 and MMP9. Decreased CYPA expression also significantly inhibits Stat3 activity and expands estrogen responsiveness. Taken together, CYPA may play an important role during mouse embryo implantation.

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Hu Gao, Bin Chen, Hui Luo, Bo Weng, Xiangwei Tang, Yao Chen, Anqi Yang and Maoliang Ran

Sertoli cells are indispensable for normal spermatogenesis, and increasing evidence has shown that miRNAs participate in the regulation of Sertoli cell growth. However, the functions and regulatory mechanisms of miRNAs in Sertoli cells of domestic animals have not been fully investigated. In the present study, we mainly investigated the regulatory roles of miR-499 in immature porcine Sertoli cells. The results showed that miR-499 was mainly located in the basement section of seminiferous tubules of prepubertal porcine testicular tissue. Overexpression of miR-499 promoted cell proliferation and inhibited apoptosis, whereas miR-499 inhibition resulted in the opposite effect. The PTEN gene was directly targeted by miR-499, and the expression of mRNA and protein was also negatively regulated by miR-499 in immature porcine Sertoli cells. siRNA-induced PTEN knockdown resulted in a similar effect as an overexpression of miR-499 and abolished the effects of miR-499 inhibition on immature porcine Sertoli cells. Moreover, both miR-499 overexpression and the PTEN knockdown activated the PI3K/AKT signaling pathway, whereas inhibition of the PI3K/AKT signaling pathway caused immature porcine Sertoli cell apoptosis and inhibited cell proliferation. Overall, miR-499 promotes proliferation and inhibits apoptosis in immature porcine Sertoli cells through the PI3K/AKT pathway by targeting the PTEN gene. This study provides novel insights into the effects of miR-499 in spermatogenesis through the regulation of immature Sertoli cell proliferation and apoptosis.

Free access

Wen-Min Cheng, Lei An, Zhong-Hong Wu, Yu-Bo Zhu, Jing-Hao Liu, Hong-Mei Gao, Xi-He Li, Shi-Jun Zheng, Dong-Bao Chen and Jian-Hui Tian

We recently reported that electrical activation followed by secondary chemical activation greatly enhanced the developmental competence of in vitro matured porcine oocytes fertilized by intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI). We hypothesized that sperm treatment with disulfide bond reducing agents will enhance the development competence of porcine embryos produced by this ICSI procedure. We examined the effects of glutathione (GSH), dithiothreitol (DTT), GSH or DTT in combination with heparin on sperm DNA structure, paternal chromosomal integrity, pronuclear formation, and developmental competence of in vitro matured porcine oocytes after ICSI. Acridine orange staining and flow cytometry based sperm chromatin structure assay were used to determine sperm DNA integrity by calculating the cells outside the main population (COMP αT). No differences were observed in COMP αT values among GSH-treated and control groups. COMP αT values in GSH-treated groups were significantly lower than that in DTT-treated groups. Following ICSI, GSH treatments did not significantly alter paternal chromosomal integrity. Paternal chromosomal integrity in sperm treated with DTT plus or minus heparin was also the lowest among all groups. GSH-treated sperm yielded the highest rates of normal fertilization and blastocyst formation, which were significantly higher than that of control and DTT-treated groups. The majority of blastocysts derived from control and GSH-treated spermatozoa were diploid, whereas blastocysts derived from DTT-treated spermatozoa were haploid. In conclusion, sperm treatment with GSH enhanced the developmental capacity of porcine embryos produced by our optimized ICSI procedure.

Open access

Renjie Wang, Wei Pan, Lei Jin, Yuehan Li, Yudi Geng, Chun Gao, Gang Chen, Hui Wang, Ding Ma and Shujie Liao

Artificial intelligence (AI) has experienced rapid growth over the past few years, moving from the experimental to the implementation phase in various fields, including medicine. Advances in learning algorithms and theories, the availability of large datasets and improvements in computing power have contributed to breakthroughs in current AI applications. Machine learning (ML), a subset of AI, allows computers to detect patterns from large complex datasets automatically and uses these patterns to make predictions. AI is proving to be increasingly applicable to healthcare, and multiple machine learning techniques have been used to improve the performance of assisted reproductive technology (ART). Despite various challenges, the integration of AI and reproductive medicine is bound to give an essential direction to medical development in the future. In this review, we discuss the basic aspects of AI and machine learning, and we address the applications, potential limitations and challenges of AI. We also highlight the prospects and future directions in the context of reproductive medicine.