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Erica Louden, Maggie M Chi, and Kelle H Moley

Maternal insulin resistance results in poor pregnancy outcomes. In vivo and in vitro exposure of the murine blastocyst to high insulin or IGF1 results in the down-regulation of the IGF1 receptor (IGF1R). This in turn leads to decreased glucose uptake, increased apoptosis, as well as pregnancy resorption and growth restriction. Recent studies have shown that blastocyst activation of AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) reverses these detrimental effects; however, the mechanism was not clear. The objective of this study was to determine how AMPK activation rescues the insulin-resistant blastocyst. Using trophoblast stem (TS) cells derived from the blastocyst, insulin resistance was recreated by transfecting with siRNA to Igf1r and down-regulating expression of the protein. These cells were then exposed to AMPK activators 5-aminoimidazole-4-carboxamide riboside and phenformin, and evaluated for apoptosis, insulin-stimulated 2-deoxyglucose uptake, PI3-kinase activity, and levels of phospho-AKT, phospho-mTor, and phospho-70S6K. Surprisingly, disrupted insulin signaling led to decreased AMPK activity in TS cells. Activators reversed these effects by increasing the AMP/ATP ratio. Moreover, this treatment increased insulin-stimulated 2-deoxyglucose transport and cell survival, and led to an increase in PI3-kinase activity, as well as increased P-mTOR and p70S6K levels. This study is the first to demonstrate significant crosstalk between the AMPK and insulin signaling pathways in embryonic cells, specifically the enhanced response of PI3K/AKT/mTOR to AMPK activation. Decreased insulin signaling also resulted in decreased AMPK activation. These findings provide mechanistic targets in the AMPK signaling pathway that may be essential for improved pregnancy success in insulin-resistant states.

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Anna L Boudoures, Maggie Chi, Alysha Thompson, Wendy Zhang, and Kelle H Moley

Obesity negatively affects many aspects of the human body including reproductive function. In females, the root of the decline in fertility is linked to problems in the oocyte. Problems seen in oocytes that positively correlate with increasing BMI include changes to the metabolism, lipid accumulation, meiosis, and metaphase II (MII) spindle structure. Studies in mice indicate that dietary interventions fail to reverse these problems. How exercise affects the oocytes has not been addressed. Therefore, we hypothesized an exercise intervention would improve oocyte quality. Here we show that in a mouse model of an exercise, intervention can improve lipid metabolism in germinal vesicle (GV) stage oocytes. Oocytes significantly increased activity and transcription of the β-oxidation enzyme hydroxyacyl-coenzyme A dehydrogenase in response to exercise training only if the mice had been fed a high-fat diet (HFD). An exercise intervention also reversed the lipid accumulation seen in GV stage oocytes of HFD females. However, delays in meiosis and disorganized MII spindles remained present. Therefore, exercise is able to improve, but not reverse, damage imparted on oocytes as a result of an HFD and obesity. By utilizing an exercise intervention on an HFD, we determined only lipid content, and lipid metabolism is changed in GV oocytes. Moving forward, interventions to improve oocyte quality may need to be more targeted to the oocyte specifically. Because of the HFD-induced deficiency in β-oxidation, dietary supplementation with substrates to improve lipid utilization may be more beneficial.

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Jing Chen, Maggie M Chi, Kelle H Moley, and Stephen M Downs

cAMP plays a critical role in the control of oocyte maturation, as a high level of cAMP maintains oocyte arrest at the first meiotic prophase. Yet this study shows that pulsing meiotically arrested denuded oocytes (DO) with cAMP induces oocyte maturation through the activation of AMP-activated protein kinase (PRKA). Short-term (3 h) pulsing of meiotically arrested oocytes with forskolin, an adenyl cyclase (AC) activator, increased oocyte cAMP, led to elevated AMP, and induced oocyte meiotic resumption compared to oocytes continuously cultured in the control medium with or without forskolin. Western analysis showed that germinal vesicle (GV)-stage oocytes after forskolin pulsing contained increased levels of phospho-acetyl CoA carboxylase (pACACA), a primary substrate of PRKA. Pulsing oocytes with the phosphodiesterase (PDE)-sensitive cAMP analog, 8-bromo-cAMP (8-Br-cAMP), also increased pACACA and pPRKA levels in GV-stage oocytes and induced oocyte meiotic resumption. Moreover, the PRKA inhibitors, compound C and araA, prevented 8-Br-cAMP pulsing-induced maturation. The lack of effect on meiotic induction and PRKA activation when oocytes were pulsed with the PDE-resistant activators of cAMP-dependent protein kinase, Sp-cAMP-AM and Sp-5,6-DCI-cBIMPS, suggests that cAMP degradation is required for pulsing-induced maturation. Pulsing oocytes with the exchange protein directly activated by cAMP (Epac)-specific activator, 8-CPT-2′-O-Me-cAMP, had no stimulatory effect on oocyte maturation, suggesting Epac is not involved in the pulsing-induced maturation. Taken together, these data support the idea that a transient increase in oocyte cAMP can induce meiotic resumption via activation of PRKA.

Free access

Katie L Adastra, Maggie M Chi, Joan K Riley, and Kelle H Moley

Autophagy is critical to the process of development because mouse models have shown that lack of autophagy leads to developmental arrest during the pre-implantation stage of embryogenesis. The process of autophagy is regulated through signaling pathways, which respond to the cellular environment. Therefore, any alteration in the environment may lead to the dysregulation of the autophagic process potentially resulting in cell death. Using both in vitro and in vivo models to study autophagy in the pre-implantation murine embryo, we observed that the cells respond to environmental stressors (i.e. hyperglycemic environment) by increasing activation of autophagy in a differential pattern within the embryo. This upregulation is accompanied by an increase in apoptosis, which appears to plateau at high concentrations of glucose. The activation of the autophagic pathway was further confirmed by an increase in GAPDH activity in both in vivo and in vitro hyperglycemic models, which has been linked to autophagy through the activation of the Atg12 gene. Furthermore, this increase in autophagy in response to a hyperglycemic environment was observed as early as the oocyte stage. In conclusion, in this study, we provided evidence for a differential response of elevated activation of autophagy in embryos and oocytes exposed to a hyperglycemic environment.