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Elizabeth M Parrish, Anaar Siletz, Min Xu, Teresa K Woodruff and Lonnie D Shea

Ovarian follicle maturation results from a complex interplay of endocrine, paracrine, and direct cell–cell interactions. This study compared the dynamic expression of key developmental genes during folliculogenesis in vivo and during in vitro culture in a 3D alginate hydrogel system. Candidate gene expression profiles were measured within mouse two-layered secondary follicles, multi-layered secondary follicles, and cumulus–oocyte complexes (COCs). The expression of 20 genes involved in endocrine communication, growth signaling, and oocyte development was investigated by real-time PCR. Gene product levels were compared between i) follicles of similar stage and ii) COCs derived either in vivo or by in vitro culture. For follicles cultured for 4 days, the expression pattern and the expression level of 12 genes were the same in vivo and in vitro. Some endocrine (cytochrome P450, family 19, subfamily A, polypeptide 1 (Cyp19a1) and inhibin βA subunit (Inhba)) and growth-related genes (bone morphogenetic protein 15 (Bmp15), kit ligand (Kitl), and transforming growth factor β receptor 2 (Tgfbr2)) were downregulated relative to in vivo follicles. For COCs obtained from cultured follicles, endocrine-related genes (inhibin α-subunit (Inha) and Inhba) had increased expression relative to in vivo counterparts, whereas growth-related genes (Bmp15, growth differentiation factor 9, and kit oncogene (Kit)) and zona pellucida genes were decreased. However, most of the oocyte-specific genes (e.g. factor in the germline α (Figla), jagged 1 (Jag1), and Nlrp5 (Mater)) were expressed in vitro at the same level and with the same pattern as in vivo-derived follicles. These studies establish the similarities and differences between in vivo and in vitro cultured follicles, guiding the creation of environments that maximize follicle development and oocyte quality.

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Hui Wang, Yansong Xue, Baolin Wang, Junxing Zhao, Xu Yan, Yan Huang, Min Du and Mei-Jun Zhu

Accompanying the dramatic increase in maternal obesity, the incidence of type 1 diabetes (T1D) in children is also rapidly increasing. The objective of this study was to explore the effects of maternal obesity on the incidence of T1D in offspring using non-obese diabetic (NOD) mice, a common model for TID. Four-week-old female NOD mice were fed either a control diet (10% energy from fat, CON) or a high-fat diet (60% energy from fat) for 8 weeks before mating. Mice were maintained in their respective diets during pregnancy and lactation. All offspring mice were fed the CON to 16 weeks. Female offspring (16-week-old) born to obese dams showed more severe islet lymphocyte infiltration (major manifestation of insulitis) (P<0.01), concomitant with elevated nuclear factor kappa-light-chain-enhancer of activated B cells p65 signaling (P<0.01) and tumor necrosis factor alpha protein level (P<0.05) in the pancreas. In addition, maternal obesity resulted in impaired (P<0.05) glucose tolerance and lower (P<0.05) serum insulin levels in offspring. In conclusion, maternal obesity resulted in exacerbated insulitis and inflammation in the pancreas of NOD offspring mice, providing a possible explanation for the increased incidence of T1D in children.

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Jingbo Dai, Wangjie Xu, Xianglong Zhao, Meixing Zhang, Dong Zhang, Dongsheng Nie, Min Bao, Zhaoxia Wang, Lianyun Wang and Zhongdong Qiao

Many studies have revealed the hazardous effects of cigarette smoking and nicotine exposure on male fertility, but the actual, underlying molecular mechanism remains relatively unclear. To evaluate the detrimental effects of nicotine exposure on the sperm maturation process, two-dimensional gel electrophoresis and mass spectrometry analyses were performed to screen and identify differentially expressed proteins from the epididymal tissue of mice exposed to nicotine. Data mining analysis indicated that 15 identified proteins were mainly involved in the molecular transportation process and the polyol pathway, indicating impaired epididymal secretory functions. Experiments in vitro confirmed that nicotine inhibited tyrosine phosphorylation levels in capacitated spermatozoa via the downregulated seminal fructose concentration. Sord, a key gene encoding sorbitol dehydrogenase, was further investigated to reveal that nicotine induced hyper-methylation of the promoter region of this gene. Nicotine-induced reduced expression of Sord could be involved in impaired secretory functions of the epididymis and thus prevent the sperm from undergoing proper maturation and capacitation, although further experiments are needed to confirm this hypothesis.

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Xiaoyan Huang, Jun Zhang, Li Lu, Lanlan Yin, Min Xu, Youqun Wang, Zuomin Zhou and Jiahao Sha

Identification of genes specifically expressed in adult and fetal testis is important in furthering our understanding of testis development and function. In this study, a novel human transcript, designated human testis cAMP-responsive element-binding protein (htCREB), was identified by hybridization of adult and fetal human testis cDNA probes with a human cDNA microarray containing 9216 clones. The htCREB transcript (GenBank Accession no. AY347527) was expressed at 2.35-fold higher levels in adult human testes than in fetal testes. Sequence and ntBLAST analyses against the human genome database indicated that htCREB was a novel splice variant of human CREB. RT-PCR-based tissue distribution experiments demonstrated that the htCREB transcript was highly expressed in adult human testis and in healthy sperm, but not in testes from patients with Sertoli cell-only syndrome. Taken together, these results suggest that the htCREB transcript is chiefly expressed in germ cells and is most likely involved in spermatogenesis.

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Hadrian M Kinnear, Claire E Tomaszewski, Faith L Chang, Molly B Moravek, Min Xu, Vasantha Padmanabhan and Ariella Shikanov

Historically, research in ovarian biology has focused on folliculogenesis, but recently the ovarian stroma has become an exciting new frontier for research, holding critical keys to understanding complex ovarian dynamics. Ovarian follicles, which are the functional units of the ovary, comprise the ovarian parenchyma, while the ovarian stroma thus refers to the inverse or the components of the ovary that are not ovarian follicles. The ovarian stroma includes more general components such as immune cells, blood vessels, nerves, and lymphatic vessels, as well as ovary-specific components including ovarian surface epithelium, tunica albuginea, intraovarian rete ovarii, hilar cells, stem cells, and a majority of incompletely characterized stromal cells including the fibroblast-like, spindle-shaped, and interstitial cells. The stroma also includes ovarian extracellular matrix components. This review combines foundational and emerging scholarship regarding the structures and roles of the different components of the ovarian stroma in normal physiology. This is followed by a discussion of key areas for further research regarding the ovarian stroma, including elucidating theca cell origins, understanding stromal cell hormone production and responsiveness, investigating pathological conditions such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), developing artificial ovary technology, and using technological advances to further delineate the multiple stromal cell types.