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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.

Open access

Hang Qi, Guiling Liang, Jin Yu, Xiaofeng Wang, Yan Liang, Xiaoqing He, Tienan Feng and Jian Zhang

MicroRNA (miRNA) expression profiles in tubal endometriosis (EM) are still poorly understood. In this study, we analyzed the differential expression of miRNAs and the related gene networks and signaling pathways in tubal EM. Four tubal epithelium samples from tubal EM patients and five normal tubal epithelium samples from uterine leiomyoma patients were collected for miRNA microarray. Bioinformatics analyses, including Ingenuity Pathway Analysis (IPA), Gene Ontology (GO) analysis and Kyoto Encyclopedia of Genes and Genomes (KEGG) pathway analysis, were performed. Quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction (qRT-PCR) validation of five miRNAs was performed in six tubal epithelium samples from tubal EM and six from control. A total of 17 significantly differentially expressed miRNAs and 4343 potential miRNA-target genes involved in tubal EM were identified (fold change >1.5 and FDR-adjusted P value <0.05). IPA indicated connections between miRNAs, target genes and other gynecological diseases like endometrial carcinoma. GO and KEGG analysis revealed that most of the identified genes were involved in the mTOR signaling pathway, SNARE interactions in vesicular transport and endocytosis. We constructed an miRNA-gene-disease network using target gene prediction. Functional analysis showed that the mTOR pathway was connected closely to tubal EM. Our results demonstrate for the first time the differentially expressed miRNAs and the related signal pathways involved in the pathogenesis of tubal EM which contribute to elucidating the pathogenic mechanism of tubal EM-related infertility.

Open access

Hang Qi, Guiling Liang, Jin Yu, Xiaofeng Wang, Yan Liang, Xiaoqing He, Tienan Feng and Jian Zhang

MicroRNA (miRNA) expression profiles in tubal endometriosis (EM) are still poorly understood. In this study, we analyzed the differential expression of miRNAs and the related gene networks and signaling pathways in tubal EM. Four tubal epithelium samples from tubal EM patients and five normal tubal epithelium samples from uterine leiomyoma patients were collected for miRNA microarray. Bioinformatics analyses, including Ingenuity Pathway Analysis (IPA), Gene Ontology (GO) analysis, and Kyoto Encyclopedia of Genes and Genomes (KEGG) pathway analysis, were performed. Quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction (qRT-PCR) validation of five miRNAs was performed in six tubal epithelium samples from tubal EM and six from control. A total of 17 significantly differentially expressed miRNAs and 4343 potential miRNA-target genes involved in tubal EM were identified (fold change>1.5 and FDR-adjusted p-value<0.05). IPA indicated connections between miRNAs, target genes, and other gynecological diseases like endometrial carcinoma. GO and KEGG analysis revealed that most of the identified genes were involved in the mTOR signaling pathway, SNARE interactions in vesicular transport, and endocytosis. We constructed an miRNA-gene-disease network using target gene prediction. Functional analysis showed that the mTOR pathway was connected closely to tubal EM. Our results demonstrate for the first time the differentially expressed miRNAs and the related signal pathways involved in the pathogenesis of tubal EM which contribute to elucidating the pathogenic mechanism of tubal EM-related infertility.

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Jun Yin, Bing Ni, Yi-dong Yang, Zhong-wei Tang, Zhi-qi Gao, Lan Feng, Wei-gong Liao and Yu-qi Gao

Autophagy and apoptosis are interlocked in an extensive crosstalk. Our previous study demonstrated that hypotonic hypoxia-induced marked apoptosis of a spermatocyte-derived cell line (GC-2). However, whether hypoxia-induced apoptosis is mediated by inhibition of autophagy under hypoxic conditions remains unclear. In this study, GC-2 cells were cultured in 1% O2 and harvested at different time points. Autophagy was determined by acridine orange staining, cyto-ID staining, mCherry-GFP-LC3B adenovirus transfection and Western blotting for various autophagy markers. Apoptosis was detected by TUNEL staining, flow cytometry, JC-1 staining and Western blotting of apoptosis-related proteins. We found that hypoxia-induced apoptosis of GC-2 cells through mitochondrial and death receptor pathways and inhibited autophagic flux in GC-2 cells in a time-dependent manner. However, while marked autolysosome formation was observed in GC-2 cells before 24-h culture in hypoxic conditions, apparent apoptosis was observed only after 24-h culture in hypoxic conditions. Caspase-8 siRNA treatment induced cell survival, accompanied by induction of the mature autophagosome, acidic vesicular organelle formation and autophagic flux. Furthermore, Beclin-1 overexpression markedly attenuated the impairment of spermatogenesis in mice by inhibiting apoptosis of spermatocytes. The results of this study demonstrate that hypoxia inhibits autophagy, which further enhances hypoxia-induced apoptosis of mouse spermatocytes by promoting caspase-8 activation in a time-dependent manner, suggesting that combined application of apoptosis inhibition and autophagy activation might be a therapeutic strategy for treating hypoxia-induced male infertility.

Free access

Zhoufei Mao, Liuhong Yang, Xiaosheng Lu, Anni Tan, Yuxia Wang, Fei Ding, Luanjuan Xiao, Xufeng Qi and Yanhong Yu

C1q/tumor necrosis factor-related protein 3 (C1QTNF3) is a novel adipokine with modulating effects on metabolism, inflammation and the cardiovascular system. C1QTNF3 expression levels in the sera and omental adipose tissues of women with PCOS are low compared to control subjects. However, the expression and function of C1QTNF3 in the ovary has not previously been examined. Here, we assessed the expression patterns of C1qtnf3 in the ovary and explored its role in folliculogenesis. The C1qtnf3 transcript abundance was higher in large follicles than in small follicles and was under the influence of gonadotropin. C1QTNF3 was detected mainly in the granulosa cells and oocytes of growing follicles and modestly in the granulosa cells of atretic follicles and in luteal cells. Excess androgen significantly decreased C1QTNF3 expression in the ovaries in vivo and in granulosa cells in vitro. Recombinant C1QTNF3 protein accelerated the weight gain of ovarian explants and the growth of preantral follicles induced by follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) in vitro. The stimulatory effect of C1QTNF3 on ovarian growth was accompanied by the initiation of AKT, mTOR, p70S6K and 4EBP1 phosphorylation, an increase in CCND2 expression and a reduction in cleaved CASP3 levels. Moreover, the addition of C1QTNF3 accelerated proliferation and reduced activated CASP3/7 activity in granulosa cells. In vivo, the ovarian intrabursal administration of the C1QTNF3 antibody delayed gonadotropin-induced antral follicle development. Taken together, our data demonstrate that C1QTNF3 is an intraovarian factor that promotes follicle growth by accelerating proliferation, decelerating apoptosis and promoting AKT/mTOR phosphorylation.

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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

Qi-Tao Huang, Oksana Shynlova, Mark Kibschull, Mei Zhong, Yan-Hong Yu, Stephen G Matthews and Stephen J Lye

Uterine tissues contain the efflux transporter P-glycoprotein (P-gp, encoded by Abcb1a/1b gene), but little is known about how it changes through gestation. Our aim was to investigate the expression profile and cellular localization of P-gp in the pregnant, laboring and post-partum (PP) rat uterus. We propose that during pregnancy the mechanical and hormonal stimuli play a role in regulating myometrial Abcb1a/1b/P-gp. Samples from bilaterally and unilaterally pregnant rats were collected throughout gestation, during labor, and PP (n=4–6/gestational day). RNA and protein were isolated and subjected to quantitative PCR and immunoblotting; P-gp transcript and protein were localized by in situ hybridization and immunohistochemistry. Expression of Abcb1a/1b gene and membrane P-gp protein in uterine tissue (1) increased throughout gestation, peaked at term (GD19-21) and dropped during labor (GD23L); and (2) was upregulated only in gravid but not in empty horn of unilaterally pregnant rats. (3) The drop of Abcb1a/1b mRNA on GD23 was prevented by artificial maintenance of elevated progesterone (P4) levels in late gestation; (4) injection of the P4 receptor antagonist RU486 on GD19 caused a significant decrease in Abcb1 mRNA levels. (5) In situ hybridization and immunohistochemistry indicated that Abcb1/P-gp is absent from myometrium throughout gestation; (6) was expressed exclusively by uterine microvascular endothelium (at early gestation) and luminal epithelium (at mid and late gestation), but was undetectable during labor. In conclusion, ABC transporter protein P-gp in pregnant uterus is hormonally and mechanically regulated. However, its substrate(s) and precise function in these tissues during pregnancy remains to be determined.

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.

Free access

Pan-Pan Cheng, Jun-Jie Xia, Hai-Long Wang, Ji-Bing Chen, Fei-Yu Wang, Ye Zhang, Xin Huang, Quan-Jun Zhang and Zhong-Quan Qi

Maternal diabetes adversely affects preimplantation embryo development and oocyte maturation. Thus, it is important to identify ways to eliminate the effects of maternal diabetes on preimplantation embryos and oocytes. The objectives of this study were to investigate whether islet transplantation could reverse the effects of diabetes on oocytes. Our results revealed that maternal diabetes induced decreased ovulation; increased the frequency of meiotic spindle defects, chromosome misalignment, and aneuploidy; increased the relative expression levels of Mad2 and Bub1; and enhanced the sensitivity of oocytes to parthenogenetic activation. Islet transplantation prevented these detrimental effects. Therefore, we concluded that islet transplantation could reverse the effects of diabetes on oocytes, and that this technique may be useful to treat the fundamental reproductive problems of women with diabetes mellitus.

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.