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André G Oliveira, Rubem A P Dornas, Lílian C Praes, Rex A Hess, Germán A B Mahecha and Cleida A Oliveira

Epididymal lithiasis is a reproductive dysfunction of roosters that is associated with loss of fertility and is characterized by the formation of calcium stones in the lumen of the efferent ductules of the epididymal region. The efferent ductules of birds are responsible for the reabsorption of the fluid coming from the testis as well as luminal calcium. It has been hypothesized that the epididymal stone formation may be related to the impairment of local fluid or calcium homeostasis, which depends on hormones such as estradiol (E2). Therefore, this study aimed to investigate possible alterations in the expression of ERα (ESR1) and ERβ (ESR2) in the epididymal region of roosters affected by epididymal lithiasis. The study was performed by immunohistochemistry and western blotting assays. In addition, the concentrations of E2, vitamin D3, and testosterone, which are also key hormones in maintenance of calcium homeostasis, were determined in the plasma and epididymal region, by ELISA. It was observed that ESR2 expression is increased in all segments of the epididymal region of affected roosters, whereas ESR1 levels are not altered. Moreover, the hormone concentration profiles were changed, as in the epididymal region of roosters with lithiasis the E2 levels were increased and vitamin D3 as well as testosterone concentrations were significantly decreased. These results suggest that a hormonal imbalance may be involved with the origin and progression of the epididymal lithiasis, possibly by affecting the local fluid or calcium homeostasis.

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Cheryl S Rosenfeld, Angela B Javurek, Sarah A Johnson, Zhentian Lei, Lloyd W Sumner and Rex A Hess

Paternal environment can induce detrimental developmental origins of health and disease (DOHaD) effects in resulting offspring and even future descendants. Such paternal-induced DOHaD effects might originate from alterations in a possible seminal fluid microbiome (SFM) and composite metabolome. Seminal vesicles secrete a slightly basic product enriched with fructose and other carbohydrates, providing an ideal habitat for microorganisms. Past studies confirm the existence of a SFM that is influenced by genetic and nutritional status. Herein, we sought to determine whether treatment of male mice with a combination of antibiotics designed to target SFM induces metabolic alterations in seminal vesicle gland secretions (seminal fluid) and histopathological changes in testes and epididymides. Adult (10- to 12-week-old) National Institutes of Health (NIH) Swiss males (n = 10 per group) were treated with Clindamycin 0.06 mg/kg day, Unasyn (ampicillin/sulbactam) 40 mg/kg day and Baytril (enrofloxacin) 50 mg/kg day designed to target the primary bacteria within the SFM or saline vehicle alone. Fourteen-day antibiotic treatment of males induced metabolomic changes in seminal vesicles with inosine, xanthine and l-glutamic acid decreased but d-fructose increased in glandular secretions. While spermatogenesis was not affected in treated males, increased number of epididymal tubules showed cribriform growth in this group (7 antibiotic-treated males: 3 saline control males; P = 0.01). Antibiotic-treated males showed more severe cribriform cysts. Current findings suggest antibiotic treatment of male mice results in seminal fluid metabolome and epididymal histopathological alterations. It remains to be determined whether such changes compromise male reproductive function or lead to DOHaD effects in resulting offspring.

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Cleida A Oliveira, Germán A B Mahecha, Kay Carnes, Gail S Prins, Philippa T K Saunders, Luiz R França and Rex A Hess

Estrogen receptors, in addition to the androgen receptor (AR), are expressed at high levels in efferent ductules of the male reproductive tract and it is now well recognized that estrogen receptor (ER) α is required for the maintenance of normal structure and function of the ductules. However, little is known regarding the hormonal regulation of the receptors themselves in the male. In the present study, efferent ductule ligation and castration, followed by replacement with testosterone, dihydro-testosterone (DHT) or estradiol was used to investigate the relative importance of circulating and luminal sources of steroid for the modulation of ERα, ERβ and AR in rat efferent ductules. Uni- or bilateral castration and ligation did not affect the expression of ERα and ERβ, but bilateral castration caused down-regulation of AR. Replacement with DHT and testosterone alone or in combination with estradiol caused the recovery of AR expression to control levels. A slight recovery of AR was also observed after estrogen replacement. ERα expression was decreased to nearly undetectable levels after estrogen replacement. On the other hand, ERβ did not show evident effects following any of the treatments, suggesting a constitutive expression of this receptor. This differential modulation of the steroid hormone receptors highlights the importance of maintaining a physiological androgen-estrogen balance to regulate the structure and function of efferent ductules in the male.

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André F A Figueiredo, Natália Teixeira Wnuk, Amanda O Tavares, José Rafael Miranda, Rex A Hess, Luiz Renato de França and Guilherme M J Costa

The number of Sertoli cells (SCs) ultimately determines the upper limit of sperm production in the testis. Previous studies have shown that thyroid hormones (TH) receptors are abundantly expressed in developing SCs; therefore, it was highly significant to discover that transient neonatal hypothyroidism induced by the goitrogen 6-n-propyl-2-thiouracil (PTU) can extend SCs proliferation beyond the first 2 weeks postnatal and increase testis weight and sperm production. Further studies concluded that treatment must begin before day 8 post birth in rats. Recent studies, however, showed that SCs present in the transition region at the rete testis exhibit a more immature phenotype and have prolonged mitotic activity, which led to the hypothesis that SCs in this region will retain the capacity to respond to PTU treatment over a longer period of time. In the present study, male Wistar rats were treated with PTU from days 21 to 40 and were evaluated at 40 and 160 days of age. Similar to neonatal rat SCs, it was demonstrated that prepubertal SCs in the transition region have a high mitotic activity and are highly sensitive to TH levels. This delayed, transient hypothyroidism resulted in significantly increased testis weight, SCs number and daily sperm production. The results demonstrate for the first time that Sertoli cells showing plasticity in the transition region can be stimulated to increase proliferation and contribute to a late stage surge in testis weight and sperm output.

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Shiyang Zhang, Yunhao Liu, Qian Huang, Shuo Yuan, Hong Liu, Lin Shi, Yi Tian Yap, Wei Li, Jingkai Zhen, Ling Zhang, Rex A Hess and Zhibing Zhang

Intraflagellar transport (IFT) is a conserved mechanism essential for the assembly and maintenance of most eukaryotic cilia and flagella. IFT172 is a component of the IFT complex. Global disruption of mouse Ift172 gene caused typical phenotypes of ciliopathy. Mouse Ift172 gene appears to translate two major proteins; the full-length protein is highly expressed in the tissues enriched in cilia and the smaller 130 kDa one is only abundant in the testis. In male germ cells, IFT172 is highly expressed in the manchette of elongating spermatids. A germ cell-specific Ift172 mutant mice were generated, and the mutant mice did not show gross abnormalities. There was no difference in testis/body weight between the control and mutant mice, but more than half of the adult homozygous mutant males were infertile and associated with abnormally developed germ cells in the spermiogenesis phase. The cauda epididymides in mutant mice contained less developed sperm that showed significantly reduced motility, and these sperm had multiple defects in ultrastructure and bent tails. In the mutant mice, testicular expression levels of some IFT components, including IFT20, IFT27, IFT74, IFT81 and IFT140, and a central apparatus protein SPAG16L were not changed. However, expression levels of ODF2, a component of the outer dense fiber, and AKAP4, a component of fibrous sheath, and two IFT components IFT25 and IFT57 were dramatically reduced. Our findings demonstrate that IFT172 is essential for normal male fertility and spermiogenesis in mice, probably by modulating specific IFT proteins and transporting/assembling unique accessory structural proteins into spermatozoa.