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Hong-Jie Yuan, Zhi-Bin Li, Xin-Yue Zhao, Guang-Yi Sun, Guo-Liang Wang, Ying-Qi Zhao, Min Zhang, and Jing-He Tan

Mechanisms by which female stress and particularly glucocorticoids impair oocyte competence are largely unclear. Although one study demonstrated that glucocorticoids triggered apoptosis in ovarian cells and oocytes by activating the FasL/Fas system, other studies suggested that they might induce apoptosis through activating other signaling pathways as well. In this study, both in vivo and in vitro experiments were conducted to test the hypothesis that glucocorticoids might trigger apoptosis in oocytes and ovarian cells through activating the TNF-α system. The results showed that cortisol injection of female mice (1.) impaired oocyte developmental potential and mitochondrial membrane potential with increased oxidative stress; (2.) induced apoptosis in mural granulosa cells (MGCs) with increased oxidative stress in the ovary; and (3.) activated the TNF-α system in both ovaries and oocytes. Culture with corticosterone induced apoptosis and activated the TNF-α system in MGCs. Knockdown or knockout of TNF-α significantly ameliorated the pro-apoptotic effects of glucocorticoids on oocytes and MGCs. However, culture with corticosterone downregulated TNF-α expression significantly in oviductal epithelial cells. Together, the results demonstrated that glucocorticoids impaired oocyte competence and triggered apoptosis in ovarian cells through activating the TNF-α system and that the effect of glucocorticoids on TNF-α expression might vary between cell types.

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Wen-jing Guo, Yi-cheng Wang, Yong-dan Ma, Zhi-hui Cui, Li-xue Zhang, Li Nie, Xue-qin Zhang, Mei-jiao Wang, Jin-hu Zhang, Dong-zhi Yuan, and Li-min Yue

The incidence of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) due to high-fat diet (HFD) consumption has been increasing significantly. However, the mechanism by which a HFD contributes to the pathogenesis of PCOS has not been elucidated. Proprotein convertase subtilisin/kexin type 9 (PCSK9) is a key protein that regulates cholesterol metabolism. Our previous study revealed abnormally high PCSK9 levels in serum from patients with PCOS and in serum and hepatic and ovarian tissues from PCOS model mice, suggesting that PCSK9 is involved in the pathogenesis of PCOS. However, the factor that induces high PCSK9 expression in PCOS remains unclear. In this study, Pcsk9 knockout mice were used to further explore the role of PCSK9 in PCOS. We also studied the effects of a HFD on the expression of PCSK9 and sterol regulatory element-binding protein 2 (SREBP2), a regulator of cholesterol homeostasis and a key transcription factor that regulates the expression of PCSK9, and the roles of these proteins in PCOS pathology. Our results indicated HFD may play an important role by inducing abnormally high PCSK9 expression via SREBP2 upregulation. We further investigated the effects of an effective SREBP inhibitor, fatostain, and found that it could reduce HFD-induced PCSK9 expression, ameliorate hyperlipidemia and improve follicular development in PCOS model mice. Our study thus further elucidates the important role of an HFD in the pathogenesis of PCOS and provides a new clue in the prevention and treatment of this disorder.

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Li Nie, Li-xue Zhang, Yi-cheng Wang, Yun Long, Yong-dan Ma, Lin-chuan Liao, Xin-hua Dai, Zhi-hui Cui, Huan Liu, Zhao-qi Wang, Zi-yang Ma, Dong-zhi Yuan, and Li-min Yue

Uterine receptivity to the embryo is crucial for successful implantation. The establishment of uterine receptivity requires a large amount of energy, and abnormal energy regulation causes implantation failure. Glucose metabolism in the endometrium is tissue specific. Glucose is largely stored in the form of glycogen, which is the main energy source for the endometrium. AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK), an important energy-sensing molecule, is a key player in the regulation of glucose metabolism and its regulation is also tissue specific. However, the mechanism of energy regulation in the endometrium for the establishment of uterine receptivity remains to be elucidated. In this study, we aimed to investigate the energy regulation mechanism of mouse uterine receptivity and its significance in embryo implantation. The results showed that the AMPK, p-AMPK, glycogen synthase 1, and glycogen phosphorylase M levels and the glycogen content in mouse endometrial epithelium varied in a periodic manner under regulation by the ovarian hormone. Specifically, progesterone significantly activated AMPK, promoted glycogenolysis, and upregulated glycogen phosphorylase M expression. AMPK regulated glycogen phosphorylase M expression and promoted glycogenolysis. AMPK was also found to be activated by changes in the energy or glycogen of the endometrial epithelial cells. The inhibition of AMPK activity or glycogenolysis altered the uterine receptivity markers during the window of implantation and ultimately interfered with implantation. In summary, consistency and synchronization of AMPK and glycogen metabolism constitute the core regulatory mechanism in mouse endometrial epithelial cells involved in the establishment of uterine receptivity.

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Zhi-hui Cui, Yong-dan Ma, Yi-cheng Wang, Huan Liu, Jia-wei Song, Li-xue Zhang, Wen-jing Guo, Xue-qin Zhang, Sha-sha Tu, Dong-zhi Yuan, Jin-hu Zhang, Li Nie, and Li-min Yue

In brief

Impaired spermatogenesis resulting from disturbed cholesterol metabolism due to intake of high-fat diet (HFD) has been widely recognized, however, the role of preprotein invertase subtilin 9 (PCSK9), which is a negative regulator of cholesterol metabolism, has never been reported. This study aims to reveal the role of PCSK9 on spermatogenesis induced by HFD in mice.


Long-term consumption of a high-fat diet (HFD) is an important factor that leads to impaired spermatogenesis exhibiting poor sperm quantity and quality. However, the mechanism of this is yet to be elucidated. Disrupted cholesterol homeostasis is one of many crucial pathological factors which could contribute to impaired spermatogenesis. As a negative regulator of cholesterol metabolism, preprotein invertase subtilin 9 (PCSK9) mediates low density lipoprotein receptor (LDLR) degradation to the lysosome, thereby reducing the expression of LDLR on the cell membrane and increasing serum low-density lipoprotein cholesterol level, resulting in lipid metabolism disorders. Here, we aim to study whether PCSK9 is a pathological factor for impaired spermatogenesis induced by HFD and the underlying mechanism. To meet the purpose of our study, we utilized wild-type C57BL/6 male mice and PCSK9 knockout mice with same background as experimental subjects and alirocumab, a PCSK9 inhibitor, was used for treatment. Results indicated that HFD induced higher PCSK9 expression in serum, liver, and testes, and serum PCSK9 is negatively correlated with spermatogenesis, while both PCSK9 inhibitor treatment and PCSK9 knockout methodologies ameliorated impaired lipid metabolism and spermatogenesis in mice fed a HFD. This could be due to the overexpression of PCSK9 induced by HFD leading to dyslipidemia, resulting in testicular lipotoxicity, thus activating the Bcl-2–Bax–Caspase3 apoptosis signaling pathway in testes, particularly in Leydig cells. Our study demonstrates that PCSK9 is an important pathological factor in the dysfunction of spermatogenesis in mice induced by HFD. This finding could provide innovative ideas for the diagnosis and treatment of male infertility.

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Chen Yang, Yue Li, Hai-Yang Pan, Meng-Yuan Li, Ji-Min Pan, Si-Ting Chen, Hai-Yi Zhang, Zhen-Shan Yang, Hai-Ting Dou, and Zeng-Ming Yang

There are around 300 million adolescent pregnancies worldwide, accounting for 11% of all births worldwide. Accumulating evidence demonstrates that many adverse perinatal outcomes are associated with adolescent pregnancies. However, how and why these abnormalities occur remain to be defined. In this study, pregnancy at different stages was compared between 25- and 30- day-old and mature female mice. We found that the litter size of adolescent pregnancy is significantly decreased from F1 to F3 generations compared to mature pregnancy. On days 8 and 12 of pregnancy, multiple abnormalities in decidual and placental development appear in F3 adolescent pregnancy. On days 5 and 8, uterine endoplasmic reticulum stress is dysregulated in F3 adolescent pregnancy. Embryo implantation and decidualization are also compromised in adolescent pregnancy. Many genes are abnormally expressed in adolescent estrous uteri. The abnormal endocrine environment and abnormal implantation from uterine immaturity may result in multiple pregnancy failures in adolescent pregnancy. The aim of this study is to shed light on human adolescent pregnancy.