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  • Author: Rui Cheng x
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Yue Li, Ru Zheng, Rui Wang, Xiaoyin Lu, Cheng Zhu, Hai-Yan Lin, Hongmei Wang, Xiaoguang Yu and Jiejun Fu

The placenta has numerous functions, such as transporting oxygen and nutrients and building the immune tolerance of the fetus. Cell fusion is an essential process for placental development and maturation. In human placental development, mononucleated cytotrophoblast (CTB) cells can fuse to form a multinucleated syncytiotrophoblast (STB), which is the outermost layer of the placenta. Nephrin is a transmembrane protein that belongs to the Ig superfamily. Previous studies have shown that nephrin contributes to the fusion of myoblasts into myotubes in zebrafish and mice, presenting a functional conservation with its Drosophila ortholog sticks and stones. However, whether nephrin is involved in trophoblast syncytialization remains unclear. In this study, we report that nephrin was localized predominantly in the CTB cells and STB of human placenta villi from first trimester to term pregnancy. Using a spontaneous fusion model of primary CTB cells, the expression of nephrin was found to be increased during trophoblast cell fusion. Moreover, the spontaneous syncytialization and the expression of syncytin 2, connexin 43, and human chorionic gonadotropin beta were significantly inhibited by nephrin-specific siRNAs. The above results demonstrate that nephrin plays an important role in trophoblast syncytialization.

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Ru Zheng, Yue Li, Huiying Sun, Xiaoyin Lu, Bao-Fa Sun, Rui Wang, Lina Cui, Cheng Zhu, Hai-Yan Lin and Hongmei Wang

The syncytiotrophoblast (STB) plays a key role in maintaining the function of the placenta during human pregnancy. However, the molecular network that orchestrates STB development remains elusive. The aim of this study was to obtain broad and deep insight into human STB formation via transcriptomics. We adopted RNA sequencing (RNA-Seq) to investigate genes and isoforms involved in forskolin (FSK)-induced fusion of BeWo cells. BeWo cells were treated with 50 μM FSK or dimethyl sulfoxide (DMSO) as a vehicle control for 24 and 48 h, and the mRNAs at 0, 24 and 48 h were sequenced. We detected 28,633 expressed genes and identified 1902 differentially expressed genes (DEGs) after FSK treatment for 24 and 48 h. Among the 1902 DEGs, 461 were increased and 395 were decreased at 24 h, whereas 879 were upregulated and 763 were downregulated at 48 h. When the 856 DEGs identified at 24 h were traced individually at 48 h, they separated into 6 dynamic patterns via a K-means algorithm, and most were enriched in down–even and up–even patterns. Moreover, the gene ontology (GO) terms syncytium formation, cell junction assembly, cell fate commitment, calcium ion transport, regulation of epithelial cell differentiation and cell morphogenesis involved in differentiation were clustered, and the MAPK pathway was most significantly regulated. Analyses of alternative splicing isoforms detected 123,200 isoforms, of which 1376 were differentially expressed. The present deep analysis of the RNA-Seq data of BeWo cell fusion provides important clues for understanding the mechanisms underlying human STB formation.

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Ruizhi Deng, Chengquan Han, Lu Zhao, Qing Zhang, Beifen Yan, Rui Cheng, Biao Wei, Peng Meng, Tingchao Mao, Yong Zhang and Jun Liu

Endogenous retroviruses (ERVs), which are abundant in mammalian genomes, can modulate the expression of nearby genes, and their expression is dynamic and stage-specific during early embryonic development in mice and humans. However, the functions and mechanisms of ERV elements in regulating embryonic development remain unclear. Here, we utilized several methods to determine the contribution of ERVs to the makeup and regulation of transcripts during embryonic genome activation (EGA). We constructed an ERV library and embryo RNA-seq library (IVF_2c and IVF_8c) of goat to serve as our research basis. The GO and KEGG analysis of nearby ERV genes revealed that some ERV elements may be associated with embryonic development. RNA-seq results were consistent with the features of EGA. To obtain the transcripts derived from the ERV sequences, we blasted the ERV sequences with embryonic transcripts and identified three lncRNAs and one mRNA that were highly expressed in IVF-8c rather than in IVF-2c (q-value <0.05). Then, we validated the expression patterns of nine ERV-related transcripts during early developmental stages and knocked down three high-expression transcripts in EGA. The knockdown of lncRNA TCONS_00460156 or mRNA HSD17B11 significantly decreased the developmental rate of IVF embryos. Our findings suggested that some transcripts from ERVs are essential for the early embryonic development of goat, and analyzing the ERV expression profile during goat EGA may help elucidate the molecular mechanisms of ERV in regulating embryonic development.

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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.