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Zelieann R Craig, Wei Wang, and Jodi A Flaws

Endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) are exogenous agents with the ability to interfere with processes regulated by endogenous hormones. One such process is female reproductive function. The major reproductive organ in the female is the ovary. Disruptions in ovarian processes by EDCs can lead to adverse outcomes such as anovulation, infertility, estrogen deficiency, and premature ovarian failure among others. This review summarizes the effects of EDCs on ovarian function by describing how they interfere with hormone signaling via two mechanisms: altering the availability of ovarian hormones, and altering binding and activity of the hormone at the receptor level. Among the chemicals covered are pesticides (e.g. dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane and methoxychlor), plasticizers (e.g. bisphenol A and phthalates), dioxins, polychlorinated biphenyls, and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (e.g. benzo[a]pyrene).

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Ruixiu Zhang, Lu Wang, Hexia Xia, and Wei Zhang

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Wei Wang, Xia Chen, Xinxiu Li, Li Wang, Haiyan Zhang, Yu He, Jingjing Wang, Yongyan Zhao, Baole Zhang, and Yinxue Xu

FSH plays a critical role in granulosa cell (GC) proliferation and steroidogenesis through modulation by factors including bone morphogenetic proteins family, which belongs to transforming growth factor β (TGFB) superfamily. TGFBs are the key factors in maintaining cell growth and differentiation in ovaries. However, the interaction of FSH and TGFB on the GCs' proliferation and steroidogenesis remains to be elucidated. In this study, we have investigated the role of SMAD4, a core molecule mediating the intracellular TGFB/SMAD signal transduction pathway, in FSH-mediated proliferation and steroidogenesis of porcine GCs. In this study, SMAD4 was knocked down using interference RNA in porcine GCs. Our results showed that SMAD4-siRNA causes specific inhibition of SMAD4 mRNA and protein expression after transfection. Knockdown of SMAD4 significantly inhibited FSH-induced porcine GC proliferation and estradiol production and changed the expression of cyclin D2, CDK2, CDK4, CYP19a1, and CYP11a1. Thus, these observations establish an important role of SMAD4 in the regulation of the response of porcine GCs to FSH.

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Yong-Hai Li, Yi Hou, Wei Ma, Jin-Xiang Yuan, Dong Zhang, Qing-Yuan Sun, and Wei-Hua Wang

CD9 is a cell surface protein that participates in many cellular processes, such as cell adhesion. Fertilization involves sperm and oocyte interactions including sperm binding to oocytes and sperm–oocyte fusion. Thus CD9 may play an essential role during fertilization in mammals. The present study was conducted to examine whether CD9 is present in porcine gametes and whether it participates in the regulation of sperm–oocyte interactions. The presence of CD9 in ovarian tissues, oocytes and spermatozoa was examined by immunohistochemistry, immunofluorescence and immunoblotting. Sperm binding and penetration of oocytes treated with CD9 antibody were examined by in vitro fertilization. The results showed that CD9 was present on the plasma membrane of oocytes at different developmental stages. A 24 kDa protein was found in oocytes during in vitro maturation by immunoblotting and its quantity was significantly (P < 0.001) increased as oocytes underwent maturation and reached the highest level after the oocytes had been cultured for 44 h. No positive CD9 staining was found in the spermatozoa. Both sperm binding to ooplasma and sperm penetration into oocytes were significantly (P < 0.01) reduced in anti-CD9 antibody-treated oocytes (1.2 ± 0.2 per oocyte and 16.6% respectively) as compared with oocytes in the controls (2.5 ± 0.4 per oocyte and 70.3% respectively). These results indicated that CD9 is expressed in pig oocytes during early growth and meiotic maturation and that it participates in sperm–oocyte interactions during fertilization.

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Wang Han-zheng, Lu Shu-hua, Shen Wei-xiong, Sun Zhi-da, Zhou Wei, Wu Yu-fen, and Zhou Mei-rong

Summary. Cell suspensions were prepared from human corpora lutea obtained during the mid-luteal phase. Progesterone production was assessed after short-term incubation of luteal cell suspensions. Luteal cells were very sensitive to hCG, the concentration required for 50% maximum response being 0·01 i.u./ml, and the response was 5 times higher than the basal production.

Oestradiol (1–100 μm) induced a significant dose-related decrease in both basal and hCG-stimulated progesterone production. The A-nor steroidal compounds anordrin and AF-45 reduced hCG-stimulated progesterone production only at the high concentration of 100 μm. The ED50 values were approximately 3 μm, 75 μm and 100 μm for oestradiol, AF-45 and anordrin respectively. Anordrin showed no significant effects on basal progesterone production. In addition, oestradiol markedly inhibited the activity of 3β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase in luteal cells, expressed by the conversion of pregnenolone to progesterone, but the inhibitory effects of anordrin and AF-45 were negligible or relatively low.

The effects of anordrin and AF-45 were different from those of oestradiol on progesterone production by human luteal cells in vitro, indicating that neither substance is likely to be a useful luteolytic agent in women.

Keywords: A-nor steroid; oestradiol; luteal cells; progesterone; 3β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase; man

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Wen-Ming Ma, Ye-Qing Qian, Mo-Ran Wang, Fan Yang, and Wei-Jun Yang

As the distal part of the crustacean male reproductive tract, terminal ampullae play important roles in sperm development and storage of mature spermatophores. In the present study, the novel gene terminal ampullae peptide (TAP) was cloned from terminal ampullae of the prawn, Macrobrachium rosenbergii. The cDNA sequence consists of 768 nucleotides, with an open-reading frame of 264 nucleotides which encodes a putative 88-amino acid precursor protein with a 17-amino acid residue signal peptide. Western blotting and immunohistochemical analysis revealed that TAP was distributed on terminal ampullae and sperm, and its expression was related to gonad development. To elucidate the functional role of TAP in vivo, we disrupted the TAP gene by RNA interference (RNAi) and evaluated the effect on fertility and several sperm parameters. Although there was no difference in fertility between RNAi-induced prawns and controls, RNAi treatment decreased the sperm gelatinolytic activity and blocked proteolytic activity on the vitelline coat. These data provide evidence that TAP participates in regulating sperm proteolytic activity, and performs a crucial role in sperm maturation and degradation of the vitelline coat during fertilization.

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Guixiang Ji, Lifeng Yan, Wei Liu, Cong Huang, Aihua Gu, and Xinru Wang

The DNA double-strand breaks (DSBs) repair pathway plays a critical role in repairing double-strand breaks, and genetic variants in DSBs repair pathway genes are potential risk factors for various diseases. To test the hypothesis that polymorphisms in DSBs genes are associated with susceptibility to male infertility, we examined 11 single nucleotide polymorphisms in eight key DSBs genes (XRCC3, XRCC2, BRCA2, RAG1, XRCC5, LIG4, XRCC4 and ATM) in 580 infertility cases and 580 controls from a Chinese population-based case–control study (NJMU Infertility Study). Genotypes were determined using the OpenArray platform, and sperm DNA fragmentation was detected using the TUNEL assay. The adjusted odds ratio (OR) and 95% CI were estimated using logistic regression. The results indicate that LIG4 rs1805388 (Ex2+54C>T, Thr9Ile) T allele could increase the susceptibility to male infertility (adjusted OR=2.78; 95% CI, 1.77–4.36 for TT genotype; and adjusted OR=1.58; 95% CI, 1.77–4.36 for TC genotype respectively). In addition, the homozygous variant genotype GG of RAG1 rs2227973 (A>G, K820R) was associated with a significantly increased risk of male infertility (adjusted OR, 1.44; 95% CI, 1.01–2.04). Moreover, linear regression analysis revealed that carriers of LIG4 rs1805388 or RAG1 rs2227973 variants had a significantly higher level of sperm DNA fragmentation and that T allele carriers of LIG4 rs1805388 also had a lower level of sperm concentration when compared with common homozygous genotype carriers. This study demonstrates, for the first time, to our knowledge, that functional variants of RAG1 rs2227973 and LIG4 rs1805388 are associated with susceptibility to male infertility.

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Fang-Ju Wu, Ying-Wen Wang, and Ching-Wei Luo

Bone morphogenetic proteins (BMPs) are known to play an indispensable role in preventing the precocious luteinization of granulosa cells within growing ovarian follicles. In this study, we found that the transcripts of BMP8 genes are enriched in the ovaries of humans and rodents. When analyzing transcriptomic datasets obtained from human mature granulosa cells, we further found that the BMP8 transcripts not only show the highest abundance among the searchable BMP-related ligands but also decrease significantly in women of advanced age or women with polycystic ovarian syndrome. The correlation between the BMP8 levels in granulosa cells and the decline in ovarian function in these subjects suggests that BMP8 protein may be involved in the regulation of granulosa cell function(s). Using a rat model, we demonstrated that human BMP8A protein activates the SMAD1/5/8 and the SMAD2/3 pathways simultaneously in both immature and mature granulosa cells. Furthermore, the expression of potential type I and type II receptors used by BMP8 in rat granulosa cells was characterized. We found that BMP8A treatment can significantly inhibit gonadotropin-induced progesterone production and steroidogenesis-related gene expression in granulosa cells. Pathway dissection using receptor inhibitors further revealed that such inhibitory effects occur specifically through the BMP8-activated SMAD1/5/8, but not SMAD2/3, pathway. Taken together, considering its abundance and possible functions in granulosa cells, we suggest that BMP8 may act as a novel luteinization inhibitor in growing follicles.

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Xiu Shi, Wei Xu, Hui-Hua Dai, Ying Sun, and Xiu-Li Wang

To compare the expression patterns of steroid receptor coactivators (SRCs) and steroid-induced stromal cell-derived factor 1 (CXCL12 (SDF1)) in normal and ectopic endometrium and to explore the roles of NCOA1 (SRC1) and NCOA2 (SRC2) in the steroid-induced CXCL12 expression in normal and ectopic endometrial stromal cells (ESCs). The NCOA1, NCOA2, NCOA3 (SRC3), and CXCL12 (SDF1)α mRNA levels in normal and ectopic endometrium were analyzed by quantitative real-time PCR. Steroid-induced CXCL12 expression was detected by the ELISA method and the chemotactic activity of conditioned supernatant to monocyte was assessed by the Boyden chamber method before and after the silencing of NCOA1 or NCOA2 with siRNA in normal and ectopic ESCs. The expression of NCOA1 and CXCL12 in ectopic endometrium was significantly greater than that in normal endometrium in the secretory phase. Progesterone (P4) was able to significantly inhibit estradiol (E2)-stimulated CXCL12 expression in normal and ectopic ESCs. The inhibitory rate of P4 in ectopic ESCs at 72 and 96 h was significantly lower than that in normal ESCs. Silencing of NCOA1 but not NCOA2 significantly reduced the E2-induced CXCL12 expression in normal and ectopic ESCs. The ability of P4 to inhibit E2-induced CXCL12 expression and monocyte chemotaxis in normal and ectopic ESCs was significantly attenuated when NCOA2 was silenced. NCOA1 plays a necessary role in E2-induced CXCL12 expression and NCOA2 is required for P4 to inhibit the E2-induced CXCL12 production in normal and ectopic endometrium.

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Shun Zhang, Yi Zeng, Juan Qu, Yaning Luo, Xiaohong Wang, and Wei Li

Administration of exogenous epidermal growth factor (EGF) improves testicular injury after acute ischemia–reperfusion (IR) stress, but the molecular basis is poorly understood. The role of endogenous EGF in testicular recovery and the underlying intracellular signaling pathways involved were herein investigated. In mice, testicular IR injury significantly enhanced the expression level of endogenous Egf at the very beginning of reperfusion. Expression of EGF receptor (Egfr (ErbB1)) was accordingly upregulated 3 h after reperfusion. Deprivation of majority of circulated EGF by sialoadenectomy aggravated testicular detriment (especially in pachytene spermatocytes), enhanced germ cell apoptosis, and thereafter resulted in impaired meiotic differentiation after IR insult. Mechanistically, endogenous EGF signaling appeared to be indispensable for the proper maintenance of Sertoli germ cells anchoring junction dynamics during the early testicular recovery. We also provided the in vitro evidences in a well-established rat Sertoli germ cell co-cultures model that the pro-survival effect of endogenous EGF on germ cells in response to testicular IR insult is mediated, at least in part, via the phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase/pAkt pathway. Collectively, our results suggest that the augment of endogenous EGF during the early testicular recovery may act on top of an endocrinous cascade orchestrating the intimate interactions between Sertoli cells and germ cells and may operate as indispensable defensive mechanism in response to testicular IR stress. Future studies in this field would shed light on this complicated pathogenesis.