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Jia Hao, Wang Yao, W B Ryan Harris, Joy Y Vink, Kristin M Myers, and Eve Donnelly

The cervix shortens and softens as its collagen microstructure remodels in preparation for birth. Altered cervical tissue collagen microstructure can contribute to a mechanically weak cervix and premature cervical dilation and delivery. To investigate the local microstructural changes associated with anatomic location and pregnancy, we used second-harmonic generation microscopy to quantify the orientation and spatial distribution of collagen throughout cervical tissue from 4 pregnant and 14 non-pregnant women. Across patients, the alignment and concentration of collagen within the cervix was more variable near the internal os and less variable near the external os. Across anatomic locations, the spatial distribution of collagen within a radial zone adjacent to the inner canal of the cervix was more homogeneous than that of a region comprising the middle and outer radial zones. Two regions with different collagen distribution characteristics were found. The anterior and posterior sections in the outer radial zone were characterized by greater spatial heterogeneity of collagen than that of the rest of the sections. Our findings suggest that the microstructural alignment and distribution of collagen varies with anatomic location within the human cervix. These observed differences in collagen microstructural alignment may reflect local anatomic differences in cervical mechanical loading and function. Our study deepens the understanding of specific microstructural cervical changes in pregnancy and informs investigations of potential mechanisms for normal and premature cervical remodeling.

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

Meng-Chieh Hsu, Jyun-Yuan Wang, Yue-Jia Lee, De-Shien Jong, Kuan-Hao Tsui, and Chih-Hsien Chiu

Kisspeptin acts as an upstream regulator of the hypothalamus–pituitary–gonad axis, which is one of the main regulatory systems for mammalian reproduction. Kiss1 and its receptor Kiss1r (also known as G protein-coupled receptor 54 (Gpr54)) are expressed in various organs, but their functions are not well understood. The purpose of this study was to investigate the expression profiles and functions of kisspeptin and KISS1R in the reproductive tissues of imprinting control region mice. To identify the expression pattern and location of kisspeptin and KISS1R in gonads, testes and ovarian tissues were examined by immunohistochemical or immunofluorescent staining. Kisspeptin and KISS1R were expressed primarily in Leydig cells and seminiferous tubules respectively. KISS1R was specifically localized in the acrosomal region of spermatids and mature spermatozoa. Kisspeptin, but not KISS1R, was expressed in the cumulus–oocyte complex and oviductal epithelium of ovarian and oviductal tissues. The sperm intracellular calcium concentrations significantly increased in response to treatment with kisspeptin 10 in Fluo-4-loaded sperm. The IVF rates decreased after treatment of sperm with the kisspeptin antagonist peptide 234. These results suggest that kisspeptin and KISS1R might be involved in the fertilization process in the female reproductive tract. In summary, this study indicates that kisspeptin and KISS1R are expressed in female and male gametes, respectively, and in mouse reproductive tissues. These data strongly suggest that the kisspeptin system could regulate mammalian fertilization and reproduction.

Free access

Qiao-Qiao Kong, Guo-Liang Wang, Jin-Song An, Jia Wang, Hao Cheng, Tao Liu, and Jing-He Tan

Postovulatory oocyte aging is one of the major causes for human early pregnancy loss and for a decline in the population of some mammalian species. Thus, the mechanisms for oocyte aging are worth exploring. While it is known that ovulated oocytes age within the oviduct and that female stresses impair embryo development by inducing apoptosis of oviductal cells, it is unknown whether the oviduct and/or female stress would affect postovulatory oocyte aging. By comparing aging characteristics, including activation susceptibility, maturation-promoting factor activity, developmental potential, cytoplasmic fragmentation, spindle/chromosome morphology, gene expression, and cumulus cell apoptosis, this study showed that oocytes aged faster in vivo in restraint-stressed mice than in unstressed mice than in vitro. Our further analysis demonstrated that oviductal cells underwent apoptosis with decreased production of growth factors with increasing time after ovulation, and female restraint facilitated apoptosis of oviductal cells. Furthermore, mating prevented apoptosis of oviductal cells and alleviated oocyte aging after ovulation. In conclusion, the results demonstrated that mouse oviducts underwent apoptosis and facilitated oocyte aging after ovulation; female restraint facilitated oocyte aging while enhancing apoptosis of oviductal cells; and copulation ameliorated oviductal apoptosis and oocyte aging.

Free access

Meng-Ling Liu, Jing-Lei Wang, Jie Wei, Lin-Lin Xu, Mei Yu, Xiao-Mei Liu, Wen-Li Ruan, and Jia-Xiang Chen

Tri-ortho-cresyl phosphate (TOCP) has been widely used as plasticizers, plastic softeners, and flame retardants in industry and reported to have a deleterious effect on the male reproductive system in animals besides delayed neurotoxicity. Our preliminary results found that TOCP could disrupt the seminiferous epithelium in the testis and inhibit spermatogenesis, but the precise mechanism is yet to be elucidated. This study shows that TOCP inhibited viability of rat spermatogonial stem cells in a dose-dependent manner. TOCP could not lead to cell cycle arrest in the cells; the mRNA levels of p21, p27, p53, and cyclin D1 in the cells were also not affected by TOCP. Meanwhile, TOCP did not induce apoptosis of rat spermatogonial stem cells. After treatment with TOCP, however, both LC3-II and the ratio of LC3-II/LC3-I were markedly increased; autophagy proteins ATG5 and beclin 1 were also increased after treatment with TOCP, indicating that TOCP could induce autophagy in the cells. Ultrastructural observation under the transmission electron microscopy indicated that autophagic vesicles in the cytoplasm containing extensively degraded organelles such as mitochondria and endoplasmic reticulum increased significantly after the cells were treated with TOCP. In summary, we have shown that TOCP can inhibit viability of rat spermatogonial stem cells and induce autophagy of the cells, without affecting cell cycle and apoptosis.

Open access

Shou-Bin Tang, Lei-Lei Yang, Ting-Ting Zhang, Qian Wang, Shen Yin, Shi-Ming Luo, Wei Shen, Zhao-Jia Ge, and Qing-Yuan Sun

It is demonstrated that repeated superovulation has deleterious effects on mouse ovaries and cumulus cells. However, little is known about the effects of repeated superovulation on early embryos. Epigenetic reprogramming is an important event in early embryonic development and could be easily disrupted by the environment. Thus, we speculated that multiple superovulations may have adverse effects on histone modifications in the early embryos. Female CD1 mice were randomly divided into four groups: (a) spontaneous estrus cycle (R0); (b) with once superovulation (R1); (c) with three times superovulation at a 7-day interval (R3) and (d) with five times superovulation at a 7-day interval (R5). We found that repeated superovulation remarkably decreased the fertilization rate. With the increase of superovulation times, the rate of early embryo development was decreased. The expression of Oct4, Sox2 and Nanog was also affected by superovulation in blastocysts. The immunofluorescence results showed that the acetylation level of histone 4 at lysine 12 (H4K12ac) was significantly reduced by repeated superovulation in mouse early embryos (P < 0.01). Acetylation level of histone 4 at lysine 16 (H4K16ac) was also significantly reduced in pronuclei and blastocyst along with the increase of superovulation times (P < 0.01). H3K9me2 and H3K27me3 were significantly increased in four-cell embryos and blastocysts. We further found that repeated superovulation treatment increased the mRNA level of histone deacetylases Hdac1, Hdac2 and histone methyltransferase G9a, but decreased the expression level of histone demethylase-encoding genes Kdm6a and Kdm6b in early embryos. In a word, multiple superovulations alter histone modifications in early embryos.

Free access

Yanni Jia, Rui Cai, Tong Yu, Ruixue Zhang, Shouqin Liu, XinYan Guo, Chunmei Shang, Aihua Wang, Yaping Jin, and Pengfei Lin

Decidualization is a critical process for successful embryo implantation and subsequent placenta formation. The characterization and physiological function of lncRNA during decidualization remain largely unknown. In the present study, we conducted RNA-sequencing analysis to compare gene expression between decidua of days 6 and 8, and normal pregnant endometrium (day 4). A total of 2332 high-confidence putative lncRNA transcripts were expressed. Functional clustering analysis of cis and trans lncRNA targets showed that differentially expressed lncRNAs may regulate multiple gene ontology terms and pathways that have important functions in decidualization. Subsequent analyses using qRT-PCR validated that eight of all lncRNAs were differentially regulated in mice uteri during decidualization, both in vivo and in vitro. Furthermore, we showed that differentially expressed lncRNA of Hand2os1 was specifically detected in stromal cells on days 2 to 5 of pregnancy and was strongly upregulated in decidual cells on days 6–8 of pregnancy. Similarly, Hand2os1 expression was also strongly expressed in decidualized cells following artificial decidualization, both in vivo and in vitro. In uterine stromal cells, P4 was able to significantly upregulate the expression of Hand2os1, but upregulation was impeded by RU486, whereas E2 appeared to have no regulating effect on Hand2os1 expression. Concurrently, Hand2os1 significantly promoted the decidual process in vitro and dramatically increased decidualization markers Prl8a2 and Prl3c1. Our results provide a valuable catalog for better understanding of the functional roles of lncRNAs in pregnant mouse uteri, as it relates to decidualization.

Free access

Jia-Jun Yu, Hui-Ting Sun, Zhong-Fang Zhang, Ru-Xia Shi, Li-Bing Liu, Wen-Qing Shang, Chun-Yan Wei, Kai-Kai Chang, Jun Shao, Ming-Yan Wang, and Ming-Qing Li

Endometriosis (EMS) is associated with an abnormal immune response to endometrial cells, which can facilitate the implantation and proliferation of ectopic endometrial tissues. It has been reported that human endometrial stromal cells (ESCs) express interleukin (IL)15. The aim of our study was to elucidate whether or not IL15 regulates the cross talk between ESCs and natural killer (NK) cells in the endometriotic milieu and, if so, how this regulation occurs. The ESC behaviors in vitro were verified by Cell Counting Kit-8 (CCK-8), Annexin/PI, and Matrigel invasion assays, respectively. To imitate the local immune microenvironment, the co-culture system between ESCs and NK cells was constructed. The effect of IL15 on NK cells in the co-culture unit was investigated by flow cytometry (FCM). In this study, we found that ectopic endometrium from patients with EMS highly expressed IL15. Rapamycin, an autophagy inducer, decreased the level of IL15 receptors (i.e. IL15Rα and IL2Rβ). IL15 inhibits apoptosis and promotes the invasiveness, viability, and proliferation of ESCs. Meanwhile, a co-culture with ESCs led to a decrease in CD16 on NK cells. In the co-culture system, IL15 treatment downregulated the levels of Granzyme B and IFN-γ in CD16+NK cells, NKG2D in CD56dimCD16-NK cells, and NKP44 in CD56brightCD16-NK cells. On the one hand, these results indicated that IL15 derived from ESCs directly stimulates the growth and invasion of ESCs. On the other hand, IL15 may help the immune escape of ESCs by suppressing the cytotoxic activity of NK cells in the ectopic milieu, thereby facilitating the progression of EMS.

Free access

Jia-Wei Shi, Hui-Li Yang, Zhen-Zhen Lai, Hui-Hui Shen, Xue-Yun Qin, Xue-Min Qiu, Yan Wang, Jiang-Nan Wu, and Ming-Qing Li

The survival and development of a semi-allogeneic fetus during pregnancy require the involvement of decidual stromal cells (DSCs), a series of cytokines and immune cells. Insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF1) is a low molecular weight peptide hormone with similar metabolic activity and structural characteristics of proinsulin, which exerts its biological effects by binding with its receptor. Emerging evidence has shown that IGF1 is expressed at the maternal–fetal interface, but its special role in establishment and maintenance of pregnancy is largely unknown. Here, we found that the expression of IGF1 in the decidua was significantly higher than that in the endometrium. Additionally, decidua from women with normal pregnancy had high levels of IGF1 compared with that from women with unexplained recurrent spontaneous miscarriage. Estrogen and progesterone led to the increase of IGF1 in DSCs through upregulating the expression of WISP2. Recombinant IGF1 or DSCs-derived IGF1 increased the survival, reduced the apoptosis of DSCs, and downregulated the cytotoxicity of decidual NK cells (dNK) through interaction with IGF1R. These data suggest that estrogen and progesterone stimulate the growth of DSCs and impair the cytotoxicity of dNK possibly by the WISP2/IGF1 signaling pathway.

Free access

Xue-Min Qiu, Zhen-Zhen Lai, Si-Yao Ha, Hui-Li Yang, Li-Bing Liu, Yan Wang, Jia-Wei Shi, Lu-Yu Ruan, Jiang-Feng Ye, Jiang-Nan Wu, Qiang Fu, Xiao-Fang Yi, Kai-Kai Chang, and Ming-Qing Li

Immune cells and cytokines have important roles in the pathogenesis of endometriosis. However, the production and role of cytokines of T helper type 1 (Th1) and Th2 cells in the progress of endometriosis have remained to be fully elucidated. The present study reported that the interferon (IFN)-γ levels and the percentage of IFN-γ+CD4+ cells were significantly increased in the peritoneal fluid (PF) at the early stage and maintained at a higher level at the advanced stage of endometriosis; furthermore, interleukin (IL)-10 and IL-10+CD4+ cells were elevated in the advanced stage of endometriosis. In addition, IL-2 levels in the PF at the advanced stage of endometriosis were elevated and negatively associated with IFN-γ expression. In a co-culture system of ectopic endometrial stromal cells (ESCs) and macrophages, elevated IL-2 was observed, and treatment with cytokines IL-2 and transforming growth factor-β led to upregulation of the ratio of IL-2+ macrophages. IL-27-overexpressing ESCs and macrophages were able to induce a higher ratio of IL-10+CD4+ T cells. Blocking of IL-2 with anti-IL-2 neutralizing antibody led to upregulation of the ratio of IFN-γ+CD4+ T cells in the co-culture system in vitro. Recombinant human IL-10 and IFN-γ promoted the viability, invasiveness and transcription levels of matrix metalloproteinase (MMP)2, MMP9, and prostaglandin-endoperoxide synthase 2 of ESCs, particularly combined treatment with IL-10 and IFN-γ. These results suggest that IL-2 and IL-27 synergistically promote the growth and invasion of ESCs by modulating the balance of IFN-γ and IL-10 and contribute to the progress of endometriosis.