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Martina Langhammer, Marten Michaelis, Andreas Hoeflich, Alexander Sobczak, Jennifer Schoen and Joachim M Weitzel

Animal models are valuable tools in fertility research. Worldwide, there are more than 400 transgenic or knockout mouse models available showing a reproductive phenotype; almost all of them exhibit an infertile or at least subfertile phenotype. By contrast, animal models revealing an improved fertility phenotype are barely described. This article summarizes data on two outbred mouse models exhibiting a ‘high-fertility’ phenotype. These mouse lines were generated via selection over a time period of more than 40 years and 161 generations. During this selection period, the number of offspring per litter and the total birth weight of the entire litter nearly doubled. Concomitantly with the increased fertility phenotype, several endocrine parameters (e.g. serum testosterone concentrations in male animals), physiological parameters (e.g. body weight, accelerated puberty, and life expectancy), and behavioral parameters (e.g. behavior in an open field and endurance fitness on a treadmill) were altered. We demonstrate that the two independently bred high-fertility mouse lines warranted their improved fertility phenotype using different molecular and physiological strategies. The fertility lines display female- as well as male-specific characteristics. These genetically heterogeneous mouse models provide new insights into molecular and cellular mechanisms that enhance fertility. In view of decreasing fertility in men, these models will therefore be a precious information source for human reproductive medicine.

Translated abstract

A German translation of abstract is freely available at http://www.reproduction-online.org/content/147/4/427/suppl/DC1.

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Inga Laezer, Sergio E Palma-Vera, Fan Liu, Marcus Frank, Nares Trakooljul, Andreas Vernunft, Jennifer Schoen and Shuai Chen

In mammals, around the time of ovulation, the hormonal profile dynamically changes in synchrony with reproductive events occurring in the oviduct, that is, sperm arrival, fertilization, and early embryo development. Extracellular vesicles (EVs) have been recently recognized as key components of the embryonic milieu; however, composition and function of oviductal EVs during this crucial period remains to be further explored. Therefore, we initially characterized EVs from porcine oviductal fluid specifically around the critical ovulation window: that is, estrus (E), late estrus (LE, day of expected ovulation), post ovulation (PO), and additionally diestrus (D). Total EV numbers gradually rose from D to E, LE and PO (P < 0.05), which corresponded to the total EV protein amount (P < 0.05). Strikingly, the mean size of EVs in PO was significantly smaller than in E and LE groups, which also had a lesser proportion of small EVs (P < 0.05). The EV protein cargoes during the periovulatory period were further analyzed by mass spectrometry. Qualitative analysis detected 1118 common proteins, which are most enriched in the cellular component of EVs/exosomes. Hierarchical clustering indicated similar protein profile within the biological replicates, but large discrepancy among stages. Further quantitative analysis discovered 34 and 4 differentially expressed proteins in the comparison between E and PO and in the comparison between E and LE, respectively. The dynamic EV protein profile together with the quick adaption in EV size and quantity suggests that porcine oviductal EV secretion are under the hormonal influence during the estrus cycle.