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Miguel J Xavier, Lisa A Mitchell, Kristen E McEwan, Rodney J Scott and R John Aitken

The Big Blue λSelect-cII selection system has been employed along with whole-exome sequencing to examine the susceptibility of the male germ line to mutation in two challenging situations (i) exposure to a chemotherapeutic regime including bleomycin, etoposide and cis-platinum (BEP) and (ii) the ageing process. A 3-week exposure to BEP induced complete azoospermia associated with a loss of developing germ cells and extensive vacuolization of Sertoli cell cytoplasm. Following cessation of treatment, spermatozoa first appeared in the caput epididymis after 6 weeks and by 12 weeks motile spermatozoa could be recovered from the cauda, although the count (P < 0.001) and motility (P < 0.01) of these cells were significantly reduced and superoxide generation was significantly elevated (P < 0.001). Despite this increase in free radical generation, no evidence of chromatin instability was detected in these spermatozoa. Furthermore, embryos obtained from females mated at this 12-week time point showed no evidence of an increased mutational load. Similarly, progressive ageing of Big Blue mice had no impact on the quality of the spermatozoa, fertility or mutation frequency in the offspring despite a significant increase in the mutational load carried by somatic tissues such as the liver (P < 0.05). We conclude that the male germ line is highly resistant to mutation in keeping with the disposable soma hypothesis, which posits that genetic integrity in the germ cells will be maintained at the expense of the soma, in light of the former’s sentinel position in safeguarding the stability of the genome.

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Yi-An Ko, M Fairuz B Jamaluddin, Mariam Adebayo, Preety Bajwa, Rodney J Scott, Arunasalam M Dharmarajan, Pravin Nahar and Pradeep S Tanwar

Recent studies showed that genetic aberrations in the MED12 gene, probably through the canonical WNT/β-catenin pathway, lead to the pathogenesis of uterine fibroids. However, a comprehensive analysis of the WNT pathway in MED12-mutated and MED12-wild-type fibroids has not been performed. The objective of this study was to determine the status of the WNT pathway in human fibroids. We performed Sanger sequencing to define the MED12 mutational status of fibroids and normal myometrium samples. qPCR arrays were carried out to determine the status of the WNT signaling pathway in MED12-mutated and MED12-wild-type fibroids. Liquid chromatography–mass spectrometry (LC–MS), Western blotting and immunohistochemistry were used to monitor the expression of β-catenin. We showed that β-catenin expression was increased in fibroids compared to the adjacent myometrium samples. However, β-catenin expression showed no correlation with MED12 mutation status. Of all the WNT signaling components, WNT inhibitors showed the greatest differences in expression between fibroids and controls. WIF1, a WNT inhibitor, was identified as the most significantly upregulated gene in fibroids. We cultured primary fibroid cells on hydrogels of known stiffness to decipher the influence of biomechanical cues on β-catenin expression and revealed increased levels of β-catenin when cells were cultured on a stiffer surface. In conclusion, our data showed that β-catenin expression in fibroids occurs independently of MED12 mutations. Biomechanical changes upregulate β-catenin expression in fibroids, providing an attractive avenue for developing new treatments for this disease.