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H Singh, L Nardo, S J Kimber, and J D Aplin

Our limited understanding of the processes underlying steroid hormonal control of human endometrial receptivity is largely due to the lack of a relevant model system. To overcome scarcity of material, we have developed a model in which mouse embryos attach to human Ishikawa cells, which express functional steroid hormone receptors. Blastocysts flushed from day 4 pregnant superovulated mice were transferred to confluent Ishikawa cell monolayers. After 48 h of co-culture, 85% of the blastocysts had attached loosely, but only 40% attached stably to the epithelial cell surface. In contrast, 95% of the embryos attached stably to tissue culture plastic. Thus, weak attachment of a majority of the embryos was followed by stronger adhesion of a smaller proportion. Seventeen percent of the transferred blastocysts modified the epithelial cell surface with loss of MUC1 at the attachment site, extending variably to adjacent epithelial cells. Initially, stable attachment occurred without disruption to the integrity of the epithelial monolayer, but at later stages after the embryo had spread laterally, displacement of subjacent cells was observed. A modest increase in stable attachment, but no changes to MUC1 clearance, was observed after assisted hatching. After 24 h priming of Ishikawa cells by 17β-oestradiol (OE2) followed by 72-h incubation with medroxyprogesterone acetate and OE2, stable attachment increased from 40 to 70%. Initial attachment is efficient either in the presence or in the absence of hormone; steroid treatment increased the incidence of stable attachment. Implantation failure is predicted to occur in this model when embryos fail to progress from initial to stable attachment.

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J. Singh, R. A. Pierson, and G. P. Adams

Heifers were studied to determine whether computer-assisted quantitative echotexture analysis of ultrasound images reflect functional and endocrine characteristics of dominant and subordinate follicles at specific stages of development. Heifers were examined using transrectal ultrasonography each day until ovariectomy on day 3 (n = 8) and day 6 (n = 9) of wave 1, day 1 of wave 2 (n = 7), or after onset of pro-oestrus ≥ 17 days after ovulation (n = 8) to obtain growing, early-static, late-static and regressing dominant follicles of wave 1, subordinate follicles, preselection follicles and preovulatory dominant follicles. Ultrasound images of the follicles were obtained in vitro and analysed using custom-developed computer algorithms. Mean pixel (picture element) values (grey-scale: black = 0, white = 255) for the follicle wall and stroma increased (P < 0.05) progressively from the growing to the regressing phases of the dominant follicle of wave 1. The antrum and wall of subordinate follicles had higher (P < 0.05) mean pixel values than that of the corresponding dominant follicles. Pixel heterogeneity (a measure of variation of grey-scale values of pixels) of images of the follicle antrum and wall increased (P < 0.05) progressively during the early-static to regressing phases. A progressive increase (P < 0.05) in the slope of the regression line of pixel values for the follicle wall was detected from the growing to the regressing phases of the dominant follicle of wave 1. The regression line of the wall of the preovulatory dominant follicle had the lowest (P < 0.05) slope. Oestradiol concentration in the follicular fluid decreased (P < 0.05) from the growing to the late-static phase, while a marked decrease (P < 0.05) in the androstenedione concentration was recorded between the growing and the early-static phases of the dominant follicle. Progesterone content did not increase until follicles were in the final stages of regression. Pixel heterogeneity of the antrum and wall, and the slope of the follicle wall regression line were negatively correlated (P < 0.001) with oestradiol and the oestradiol:progesterone ratio in follicular fluid. The results of this study support the hypothesis that echotexture characteristics of ultrasound images of the follicle antrum and wall are correlated with the functional and endocrine status of a follicle.

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J. Singh, R. A. Pierson, and G. P. Adams

Nulliparous heifers (n = 58) were studied to determine whether computer-assisted quantitative echotexture analysis of ultrasound images reflects the functional and histomorphological characteristics of the corpus luteum. The ovaries of heifers were examined daily by transrectal ultrasonography from day −2 (day 0 = ovulation) until the day of ovariectomy during metoestrus (day 3; n = 8), early dioestrus (day 6; n = 9), mid-dioestrus (mean, day 10; n = 7), or pro-oestrus (mean, day 18; n = 8; Expt 1). High resolution ultrasound images of corpora lutea were obtained in vitro, and were digitized and analysed using custom-developed computer algorithms optimized for ultrasonography. Cryostat sections of corpora lutea were examined for lipid distribution, and corpora lutea were homogenized to determine the content of progesterone, total protein, cholesterol and triglyceride. In Expt 2, heifers (n = 26) were ovariectomized as in Expt 1, and ovaries were prepared for histomorphometric evaluation. Pixel values (brightness of picture elements) of ultrasound images of corpora lutea were characterized as high during metoestrus, low during early and mid-dioestrus, and increasing again during pro-oestrus (P < 0.05). Changes (P < 0.001) in volume density of luteal cells were characterized as increasing from metoestrus (40.7 ± 0.4%) to mid-dioestrus (55.8 ± 2.8%) and decreasing again at pro-oestrus (41.5 ± 0.9%). The proportion of blood vascular components decreased (P < 0.001) progressively from 31.0 ± 1.0% in metoestrus to 15.6 ± 1.1% in pro-oestrus. Pixel values of ultrasound images of corpora lutea were correlated with luteal (r = −0.72, P < 0.05) and plasma (r = −0.71, P < 0.03) progesterone concentration, and to the volume densities of luteal cells (r = −0.75, P < 0.02) and connective tissue (r = 0.69, P < 0.03). Estimates of triglyceride, protein and cholesterol content of corpora lutea were not correlated with pixel values of ultrasound images. Protein and cholesterol content did not change while triglyceride concentration increased during pro-oestrus (P < 0.05). Results support the hypothesis that ultrasound images reflect luteal and plasma progesterone content, and histomorphological characteristics of the corpus luteum.

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J. Mohan, J. N. Panda, U. S. Singh, and R. P. Moudgal

Summary. Daily oral administration of gossypol acetic acid (40 mg/kg body weight daily) resulted in a gradual decrease in the semen volume and sperm concentration. Fertility dropped to zero at the end of the treatment period. Activities of acrosin, hyaluronidase and angiotensin converting enzyme were also drastically decreased by the end of the treatment period. A loss of appetite, loss of body weight and morphological abnormalities in spermatozoa were noticed in the treated cocks. At 4 weeks after cessation of the treatment, full recovery of the above measures was recorded. Healthy chicks were hatched and were observed for several months.

Keywords: gossypol acetic acid; antifertility; cock spermatozoa; hyaluronidase; acrosin; angiotensin converting enzyme

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Pritpal S Malhi, Gregg P Adams, Reuben J Mapletoft, and Jaswant Singh

The study was designed to test the hypothesis that aging in cattle is associated with reduced developmental competence of oocytes. The hypothesis was tested by comparing embryo production and pregnancy rates between 13- to 16-year-old cows (n = 6 in Year 1 and n = 9 in Year 2) and their 3- to 6-year-old young daughters (n = 8 in Year 1 and n = 9 in Year 2) after superovulation and transfer of embryos into an unrelated group of young recipients. Embryos were transferred into 2- to 5-year-old recipient cows (n = 99) as singletons (n = 45) or in pairs (n = 54 pairs). Embryo survival in recipients was determined by ultrasonography and by the number of calves born. Between old versus young cows, the number of ovulations (31 ± 4 vs 38 ± 3; P = 0.2) and the number of corpora lutea (25 ± 3 vs 29 ± 2; P = 0.3) did not differ, but fewer (P = 0.04) embryos were recovered from old cows (6 ± 2) than their daughters (12 ± 2). A higher proportion (P < 0.0001) of unfertilized oocytes/uncleaved zygotes were recovered from old cows (222/312, 71%) than their daughters (119/316, 38%). Among the embryos recovered, the proportion of International Embryo Transfer Society Grades 1–2 embryos was similar (P = 0.9) between old (59/90, 66%) and young cows (130/194, 67%). The survival of embryos after transfer into recipients, and the proportion of calves born were also similar between old and young cows. In conclusion, recovery of fewer embryos and a greater proportion of unfertilized oocytes/uncleaved zygotes suggest reduced developmental competence of oocytes from old cows, but there was no difference between age groups in embryo survival after the morula/blastocyst stage.

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F C F Dias, M I R Khan, M A Sirard, G P Adams, and J Singh

Microarray analysis was used to compare the gene expression of granulosa cells from dominant follicles with that of those after superstimulatory treatment. Cows were allocated randomly to two groups (superstimulation and control, n=6/group). A new follicular wave was induced by ablation of follicles ≥5 mm in diameter, and a progesterone-releasing device controlled internal drug release (CIDR) was placed in the vagina. The superstimulation group was given eight doses of 25 mg FSH at 12-h intervals starting from the day of wave emergence (day 0), whereas the control group was not given FSH treatment. Both groups were given prostaglandin F2 α twice, 12 h apart, on day 3 and the CIDR was removed at the second injection; 25 mg porcine luteinizing hormone (pLH) was given 24 h after CIDR removal, and cows were ovariectomized 24 h later. Granulosa cells were collected for RNA extraction, amplification, and microarray hybridization. A total of 190 genes were downregulated and 280 genes were upregulated. To validate the microarray results, five genes were selected for real-time PCR (NTS, FOS, THBS1, FN1, and IGF2). Expression of four genes increased significantly in the three different animals tested (NTS, FOS, THBS1, and FN1). The upregulated genes are related to matrix remodeling (i.e. tissue proliferation), disturbance of angiogenesis, apoptosis, and oxidative stress response. We conclude that superstimulation treatment i) results in granulosa cells that lag behind in maturation and differentiation (most of the upregulated genes are markers of the follicular growth stage), ii) activates genes involved with the NFE2L2 oxidative stress response and endoplasmic reticulum stress response, and iii) disturbs angiogenesis.

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W Y Kwong, S J Adamiak, A Gwynn, R Singh, and K D Sinclair

Maternal B-vitamin status at conception can affect fertility and the health of offspring. This study details transcript expression for genes encoding key enzymes in the linked methionine/folate cycles in the bovine oocyte, somatic cells of the ovarian follicle and pre-implantation embryo. Transcripts for all 12 enzymes that were studied and for the two folate receptors (FOLR1 and FOLR2) and reduced folate carrier (SLC19A1) were expressed in liver cells, but transcripts for betaine-homocysteine methyltransferase and methionine adenosyl transferase 1A were absent in all ovarian cells, and transcripts for FOLR2 were absent in embryonic cells. Transcripts for glycine methyltransferase were also absent/weak in cumulus and granulosa cells. The absence of these enzymes could have a profound effect on single-carbon metabolism within the ovary and pre-implantation embryo. Immunocytochemical analysis revealed SLC19A1 protein expression on the plasma and basal-lateral membranes of the pre-implantation embryo. The folate antagonist methotrexate (MTX) enters the cell via SLC19A1, and in the current study, MTX inclusion in bovine/ovine culture media at either 1 or 10 μM from the 1-cell stage inhibited embryo development beyond the 8-cell stage. Hypoxanthine and thymidine (100 μM) increased the proportion of embryos that developed to blastocysts, but the cell number was reduced by 20%. The reduced uptake of [35S] methionine into intra-cellular S-adenosylmethionine and S-adenosylhomocysteine pools, together with reduced uptake of glutamate and tryptophan, was consistent with depleted intra-cellular pools of reduced folates. These data provide an insight into the importance of maternal dietary folate/B-vitamin status during the peri-conceptional period.

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S G Hannesdóttir, X Han, T Lund, M Singh, R van der Zee, I M Roitt, and P J Delves

Immunosterilization is an attractive alternative to surgical castration. Gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) controls the production of the gonadotropins thereby having an orchestrating effect on the reproductive hormone cascade and spermatogenesis. Induction of neutralizing antibody can abrogate the effect of the hormone. Current GnRH-based vaccines often require strong adjuvants and/or multiple injections of the vaccines to overcome variability in the response. Heat shock proteins (hsp) have been used as carrier molecules because of their powerful intrinsic ability to enhance an immune response to associated antigens. A GnRH-analogue, GnRH-d6-Lys, was conjugated to recombinant Mycobacterium tuberculosis hsp70. Male BALB/c mice were immunized i.p. with GnRH-hsp70 in the mild adjuvant Ribi or in incomplete Freund’s adjuvant (IFA). The initial immunizations were done on pre-pubertal 3-week-old mice, with boosts at 5 and 8 weeks of age. The mice were killed at 10 weeks of age and GnRH-specific antibodies and serum testosterone levels measured. All the immunized mice mounted GnRH-specific antibody responses, with no difference in the mice immunized with GnRH-hsp70/Ribi or with GnRH-hsp70/IFA. There was substantial atrophy of the urogenital complex and significantly (P < 0.0005) reduced levels of testosterone-dependent testicular relaxin-like factor mRNA expression. Mice immunized with GnRH-hsp70/Ribi showed substantially reduced (P < 0.001) serum testosterone levels. These results indicate that hsp70 may serve as a particularly advantageous carrier for GnRH-based vaccines.

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Daulat Raheem Khan, Éric Fournier, Isabelle Dufort, François J Richard, Jaswant Singh, and Marc-André Sirard

Abstract

Folliculogenesis involves coordinated profound changes in different follicular compartments and significant modifications of their gene expression patterns, particularly in granulosa cells. Huge datasets have accumulated from the analyses of granulosa cell transcriptomic signatures in predefined physiological contexts using different technological platforms. However, no comprehensive overview of folliculogenesis is available. This would require integration of datasets from numerous individual studies. A prerequisite for such integration would be the use of comparable platforms and experimental conditions. The EmbryoGENE program was created to study bovine granulosa cell transcriptomics under different physiological conditions using the same platform. Based on the data thus generated so far, we present here an interactive web interface called GranulosaIMAGE (Integrative Meta-Analysis of Gene Expression), which provides dynamic expression profiles of any gene of interest and all isoforms thereof in granulosa cells at different stages of folliculogenesis. GranulosaIMAGE features two kinds of expression profiles: gene expression kinetics during bovine folliculogenesis from small (6 mm) to pre-ovulatory follicles under different hormonal and physiological conditions and expression profiles of granulosa cells of dominant follicles from post-partum cows in different metabolic states. This article provides selected examples of expression patterns along with suggestions for users to access and generate their own patterns using GranulosaIMAGE. The possibility of analysing gene expression dynamics during the late stages of folliculogenesis in a mono-ovulatory species such as bovine should provide a new and enriched perspective on ovarian physiology.