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Open access

Song Li, Qi Fan, Yanqiu Xie, Haiyan Lin, Qi Qiu, Yihua Liang and Qingxue Zhang

In vitro activation of primordial follicles is becoming more essential in assisted reproductive technologies. Vasoactive intestinal peptide (VIP) is one of the members of the neurotrophin family which has demonstrated to have an impact on follicle development in recent years. This study aims to investigate the effect of VIP on the activation of primordial follicles in neonatal rat in an in vitro culture system and to determine the relevant molecular mechanism of their activation. Ovaries of 4-day-old rats were examined for the expression of VIP receptors and were cultured in mediums containing VIP with or without inhibitors of the ERK–mTOR signalling pathway. They were then collected for histological analysis or measurement of the molecular expression of this pathway. The receptors of VIP were found in granular cells and oocytes of primordial and early-growing follicles in neonatal ovary. The ratio of growing follicle increased in the presence VIP at different concentrations, with the highest level of increase being observed in the 10−7 mol/L VIP-treated group. The ratio of PCNA-positive granular cells was also increased, while that of the apoptotic oocytes were decreased, and protein analysis showed increased phosphorylation of ERK1/2, mTOR and RPS6 in the VIP-treated group. However, the effect of VIP on the activation of primordial follicle became insignificant with the addition of MEK inhibitor (U0126) or mTORC1 inhibitor (rapamycin). This study indicated that VIP could activate neonatal rat primordial follicle through the ERK-mTOR signalling pathway, suggesting a strategy for in vitro primordial follicle recruitment.

Free access

Zhuxia Zheng, Hongmei Li, Qinfen Zhang, Lele Yang and Huayu Qi

Cell lineage determination during early embryogenesis has profound effects on adult animal development. Pre-patterning of embryos, such as that of Drosophila and Caenorhabditis elegans, is driven by asymmetrically localized maternal or zygotic factors, including mRNA species and RNA binding proteins. However, it is not clear how mammalian early embryogenesis is regulated and what the early cell fate determinants are. Here we show that, in mouse, mitochondrial ribosomal RNAs (mtrRNAs) are differentially distributed between 2-cell sister blastomeres. This distribution pattern is not related to the overall quantity or activity of mitochondria which appears equal between 2-cell sister blastomeres. Like in lower species, 16S mtrRNA is found to localize in the cytoplasm outside of mitochondria in mouse 2-cell embryos. Alterations of 16S mtrRNA levels in one of the 2-cell sister blastomere via microinjection of either sense or anti-sense RNAs drive its progeny into different cell lineages in blastocyst. These results indicate that mtrRNAs are differentially distributed among embryonic cells at the beginning of embryogenesis in mouse and they are functionally involved in the regulation of cell lineage allocations in blastocyst, suggesting an underlying molecular mechanism that regulates pre-implantation embryogenesis in mouse.

Restricted access

Na Li, Ling Zhang, Qi Li, Yu Du, Hengwei Liu, Yi Liu and Wenqian Xiong

Oestrogen has been reported to control the invasiveness of endometrial stromal cells in endometriosis. Notch signalling, a master regulator of cell invasion in tumours, is regulated by oestrogen in other diseases and hyperactivated in endometriotic stromal cells. Therefore, we hypothesized that an interaction between Notch signalling and oestrogen may exist in the regulation of endometrial stromal cell invasion, which is essential for the development of endometriosis. Western blot analysis of tissues showed that the expression levels of Notch components (JAG1 and NOTCH1) and Notch activity were markedly higher in ectopic endometria than in their eutopic and normal counterparts. Primary stromal cells obtained from normal endometria cultured with oestrogen presented significant increases in the expression of Notch components and Notch activity, the cytoplasmic and nuclear accumulation of NOTCH1 intracellular domain, the expression of matrix metallopeptidase 9 and vascular endothelial growth factor and cell invasiveness. Knockdown of NOTCH1 markedly alleviated oestrogen-induced matrix metallopeptidase 9 and vascular endothelial growth factor expression and cell invasion. ICI (an oestrogen receptor α antagonist) also blocked these oestrogenic effects. Oestrogen-responsive elements were found in the promoters of NOTCH1 and JAG1. A luciferase reporter analysis revealed that oestrogen regulated the expression of Notch components via oestrogen receptor alpha, which is bound to oestrogen-responsive elements in the JAG1 and NOTCH1 promoters. Collectively, our findings indicate that oestrogen engages in crosstalk with Notch signalling to regulate cell invasion in endometriosis via the activation of oestrogen receptor alpha and the enhancement of Notch activity. Notch signalling blockade may therefore be a novel therapeutic target for endometriosis.

Free access

Sha Peng, Jing Li, Chenglin Miao, Liwei Jia, Zeng Hu, Ping Zhao, Juxue Li, Ying Zhang, Qi Chen and Enkui Duan

Dickkopf-1 (Dkk1) is one of the secreted antagonists in the canonical Wnt signaling pathway. It plays important roles in diverse developmental processes. However, the role of Dkk1 in trophoblast cell invasion during placentation remains unclear. In this study, we found that Dkk1 was mainly expressed in maternal decidual tissue but trivially in ectoplacental cones (EPCs) in day 8 post coitum (p.c.) pregnant mouse uterus and that the efficiency of EPC attachment and outgrowth was increased when co-cultured with decidual cells, which secreted Dkk1, and this enhancement was abolished by pretreating decidual cells with Dkk1 blocking antibody before co-culture experiment. This indicates that Dkk1 secreted by decidual cells plays an important role in trophoblast cell invasion. Indeed, when recombinant mouse Dkk1 was added to EPCs in vitro, the efficiency of attachment and outgrowth was increased. Migration of EPCs toward the decidua was retarded when antisense Dkk1 oligonucleotide (ODN) was administered via intrauterine injection in vivo. Furthermore, the active β-catenin nuclear location was lost when we treated cultured EPCs with recombinant mouse Dkk1, and the efficiency of EPCs attachment and outgrowth was obviously increased when we treated cultured EPCs with antisense β-catenin ODN. Taken together, Dkk1 secreted by decidual cells may induce trophoblast cell invasion in the mouse and β-catenin may be involved in such functions of Dkk1.

Restricted access

Yu Du, Zhibing Zhang, Wenqian Xiong, Na Li, Hengwei Liu, Haitang He, Qi Li, Yi Liu and Ling Zhang

Endometriosis is an estrogen-dependent benign gynecological disease that shares some common features of malignancy. Epithelial–mesenchymal transition (EMT) has been recognized as a core mechanism of endometriosis. MALAT1 is widely known as EMT promoter, while miR200 family members (miR200s) are considered as EMT inhibitors. Previous studies have reported that MALAT1 upregulation and miR200s downregulation are observed in endometriosis. MiR200c has been regarded as the strongest member of miR200s to interact with MALAT1. However, whether MALAT1/miR200c regulates EMT remains largely unclear. In this study, the roles of miR200s and MALAT1 in ectopic endometrium were investigated. Additionally, the effects of E2 on EMT and MALAT1/miR200s were examined in both EECs and Ishikawa cells. Notably, E2 could upregulate MALAT1 and downregulate miR200s expression levels and induce EMT in EECs and Ishikawa cells. PHTPP, an ERβ antagonist, could reverse the effect of E2. Overexpression of miR200c and knockdown of MALAT1 significantly inhibited E2-mediated EMT, suggesting that both miR200c and MALAT1 are involved in the E2-induced EMT process in endometriosis. In addition, a reciprocal inhibition was found between miR200s and MALAT1. Therefore, the role of MALAT1/miR200c in EMT is influenced by the presence of estrogen during endometriosis development.

Free access

Rui-Song Ye, Meng Li, Chao-Yun Li, Qi-En Qi, Ting Chen, Xiao Cheng, Song-Bo Wang, Gang Shu, Li-Na Wang, Xiao-Tong Zhu, Qing-Yan Jiang, Qian-Yun Xi and Yong-Liang Zhang

FSH plays an essential role in processes involved in human reproduction, including spermatogenesis and the ovarian cycle. While the transcriptional regulatory mechanisms underlying its synthesis and secretion have been extensively studied, little is known about its posttranscriptional regulation. A bioinformatics analysis from our group indicated that a microRNA (miRNA; miR-361-3p) could regulate FSH secretion by potentially targeting the FSHB subunit. Herein, we sought to confirm these findings by investigating the miR-361-3p-mediated regulation of FSH production in primary pig anterior pituitary cells. Gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) treatment resulted in an increase in FSHB synthesis at both the mRNA, protein/hormone level, along with a significant decrease in miR-361-3p and its precursor (pre-miR-361) levels in time- and dose-dependent manner. Using the Dual-Luciferase Assay, we confirmed that miR-361-3p directly targets FSHB. Additionally, overexpression of miR-361-3p using mimics significantly decreased the FSHB production at both the mRNA and protein levels, with a reduction in both protein synthesis and secretion. Conversely, both synthesis and secretion were significantly increased following miR-361-3p blockade. To confirm that miR-361-3p targets FSHB, we designed FSH-targeted siRNAs, and co-transfected anterior pituitary cells with both the siRNA and miR-361-3p inhibitors. Our results indicated that the siRNA blocked the miR-361-3p inhibitor-mediated upregulation of FSH, while no significant effect on non-target expression. Taken together, our results demonstrate that miR-361-3p negatively regulates FSH synthesis and secretion by targeting FSHB, which provides more functional evidence that a miRNA is involved in the direct regulation of FSH.

Free access

Da Li, Yue You, Fang-Fang Bi, Tie-Ning Zhang, Jiao Jiao, Tian-Ren Wang, Yi-Ming Zhou, Zi-Qi Shen, Xiu-Xia Wang and Qing Yang

The importance of autophagy in polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)-related metabolic disorders is increasingly being recognized, but few studies have investigated the role of autophagy in PCOS. Here, transmission electron microscopy demonstrated that autophagy was enhanced in the ovarian tissue from both humans and rats with PCOS. Consistent with this, ovarian granulosa cells from PCOS rats showed increases in the autophagy marker protein light chain 3B (LC3B), whereas levels of the autophagy substrate SQSTM1/p62 were decreased. In addition, the ratio of LC3-II/LC3-I was markedly elevated in human PCOS ovarian tissue compared with normal ovarian tissue. Real-time PCR arrays indicated that 7 and 34 autophagy-related genes were down- and up-regulated in human PCOS , Signal-Net, and regression analysis suggested that there are a wide range of interactions among these 41 genes, and a potential network based on EGFR, ERBB2, FOXO1, MAPK1, NFKB1, IGF1, TP53 and MAPK9 may be responsible for autophagy activation in PCOS. Systematic functional analysis of 41 differential autophagy-related genes indicated that these genes are highly involved in specific cellular processes such as response to stress and stimulus, and are linked to four significant pathways, including the insulin, ERBB, mTOR signaling pathways and protein processing in the endoplasmic reticulum. This study provides evidence for a potential role of autophagy disorders in PCOS in which autophagy may be an important molecular event in the pathogenesis of PCOS.

Free access

Yang Yu, Chenhui Ding, Eryao Wang, Xinjie Chen, Xuemei Li, Chunli Zhao, Yong Fan, Liu Wang, Nathalie Beaujean, Qi Zhou, Alice Jouneau and Weizhi Ji

Even though it generates healthy adults, nuclear transfer in mammals remains an inefficient process. Mainly attributed to abnormal reprograming of the donor chromatin, this inefficiency may also be caused at least partly by a specific effect of the cloning technique which has not yet been well investigated. There are two main procedures for transferring nuclei into enucleated oocytes: fusion and piezoelectric microinjection, the latter being used mostly in mice. We have, therefore, decided to compare the quality and the developmental ability, both in vivo and in vitro, of embryos reconstructed with electrofusion or piezoelectric injection. In addition, the effect of piezo setups of differing electric strengths was investigated. Along with the record of the rate of development, we compared the nuclear integrity in the blastomeres during the first cleavages as well as the morphological and cellular quality of the blastocysts. Our results show that the piezo-assisted micromanipulation can induce DNA damage in the reconstructed embryos, apoptosis, and reduced cell numbers in blastocysts as well as a lower rate of development to term. Even if piezo-driven injection facilitates a faster and more efficient rate of reconstruction, it should be used with precaution and with as low parameters as possible.

Open access

Hai-Yan Hou, Xi Wang, Qi Yu, Hong-Yi Li, Shao-Jie Li, Rui-Yi Tang, Zai-Xin Guo, Ya-Qiong Chen, Chun-Xiu Hu, Zhi-Juan Yang, Wen-ke Zhang and Yan Qin

Decline in successful conception decreases more rapidly after 38 years of age owing to follicular depletion and decreased oocyte quality. However, limited information is available regarding the underlying mechanism and the useful treatment. This study aimed to evaluate the effects of growth hormone supplementation on oocyte maturation in vivo in aged and young mice and to determine its effect on mitochondrial function. The influence of three different doses of recombinant human growth hormone (rhGH) (0.4, 0.8 and 1.6 mg/kg/day) for 8 weeks before ovarian stimulation was analyzed. Superovulated oocytes were released from the oviduct of 12-week-old and 40-week-old female C57BL/6J mice 14–16 h after administration of human chorionic gonadotropin. Ovarian follicle and morphological analysis and oocyte maturation parameters were then evaluated. This study is the first, to our knowledge, to report that medium- and high-dose rhGH significantly increases antral follicles in aged mice but anti-Müllerian hormone (AMH) levels. Furthermore, derived oocytes, MII-stage oocyte rate, ATP levels, mitochondrial membrane potential and frequencies of homogeneous mitochondrial distribution increased. In contrast, in both aged and young mice, the mtDNA copy numbers per oocyte were similar before rhGH administration, and upon saline administration, they did not differ significantly. We conclude that medium-dose rhGH supplementation before standard ovarian stimulation regimens improves oocyte quality in aged mice, probably by enhancing mitochondrial functionality.