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Jing Tong, Shile Sheng, Yun Sun, Huihui Li, Wei-Ping Li, Cong Zhang and Zi-Jiang Chen

Good-quality oocytes are critical for the success of in vitro fertilization (IVF), but, to date, there is no marker of ovarian reserve available that can accurately predict oocyte quality. Melatonin exerts its antioxidant actions as a strong radical scavenger that might affect oocyte quality directly as it is the most potent antioxidant in follicular fluid. To investigate the precise role of endogenous melatonin in IVF outcomes, we recruited 61 women undergoing treatment cycles of IVF or intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) procedures and classified them into three groups according to their response to ovarian stimulation. Follicular fluid was collected to assess melatonin levels using a direct RIA method. We found good correlations between melatonin levels in follicular fluid with age, anti-Müllerian hormone (AMH) and baseline follicle-stimulating hormone (bFSH), all of which have been used to predict ovarian reserve. Furthermore, as melatonin levels correlated to IVF outcomes, higher numbers of oocytes were collected from patients with higher melatonin levels and consequently the number of oocytes fertilized, zygotes cleaved, top quality embryos on D3, blastocysts obtained and embryos suitable for transplantation was higher. The blastocyst rate increased in concert with the melatonin levels across the gradient between the poor response group and the high response group. These results demonstrated that the melatonin levels in follicular fluid is associated with both the quantity and quality of oocytes and can predict IVF outcomes as well making them highly relevant biochemical markers of ovarian reserve.

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Kaiyue Zhang, Wanxia Zhong, Wei-Ping Li, Zi-Jiang Chen and Cong Zhang

Poor ovarian response is a significant problem encountered during in vitro fertilization and embryo transfer procedures. Many infertile women may suffer from poor ovarian response and its incidence tends to be increasing in young patients nowadays. It is a major cause of maternal infertility because it is associated with low pregnancy and live birth rates. However, the cause of poor ovarian response is not clear. In this study, we extracted microRNAs from human follicular fluid and performed miRNA sequencing to investigate a potential posttranscriptional mechanism underlying poor ovarian response. The results showed that many miRNAs were obviously different between the poor ovarian response and non-poor ovarian response groups. We then performed quantitative polymerase chain reaction, Western blot analysis and used an in vitro culture system to verify the sequencing results and to study the mechanism. Notably, we found that miRNA-15a-5p was significantly elevated in the young poor ovarian response group. Furthermore, we demonstrated that high levels of miR-15a-5p in the young poor ovarian response group repressed granulosa cell proliferation by regulating the PI3K-AKT-mTOR signaling pathway and promoted apoptosis through BCL2 and BAD. This could explain the reduced oocyte retrieval number seen in poor ovarian response patients.

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Zi-gang Shen, Wei He, Ji Zhang, Hai-yang He, Xia Yang, Zheng-qiong Chen, Ping Yang, Jian Li, Zhi-qing Liang, Yu-zhang Wu and Jin-tao Li

SPINLW1 (previously known as eppin (epididymal protease inhibitor)) is a target under intense scrutiny in the study of male contraceptive vaccines. B-cell-dominant epitopes are now recognized as key parts of the induction of humoral immune responses against target antigens. The generation of robust humoral responses in vivo has become a crucial problem in the development of modern vaccines. In this study, we developed a completely novel B-cell-dominant-epitope-based mimovirus vaccine, which is a kind of virus-size particulate antigen delivery system. The mimovirus successfully self-assembled from a cationic peptide containing a cell-penetrating peptide of TAT49–57 and a plasmid DNA encoding both three SPINLW1 (103–115) copies and adjuvant C3d3. The male mice were immunized with the epitope-based mimovirus vaccine, which resulted in a gradual elevation of specific serum IgG antibody levels. These reached a peak at week 4. Mating for the fertility assay showed that the mimovirus vaccine had accomplished a moderate fertility inhibition effect and investigation into the mechanism of action showed that it did so by interfering with the reproductive function of the sperm but that it did not damage the structures of the testes or cause serum testosterone to decline. Our results suggest an ideal protocol for suppressing fertility in mice by an engineered mimovirus vaccine.

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Jun Shao, Bing Zhang, Jia-Jun Yu, Chun-Yan Wei, Wen-Jie Zhou, Kai-Kai Chang, Hui-Li Yang, Li-Ping Jin, Xiao-Yong Zhu and Ming-Qing Li

Macrophages play an important role in the origin and development of endometriosis. Estrogen promoted the growth of decidual stromal cells (DSCs) by downregulating the level of interleukin (IL)-24. The aim of this study was to clarify the role and mechanism of IL-24 and its receptors in the regulation of biological functions of endometrial stromal cells (ESCs) during endometriosis. The level of IL-24 and its receptors in endometrium was measured by immunohistochemistry. In vitro analysis was used to measure the level of IL-24 and receptors and the biological behaviors of ESCs. Here, we found that the expression of IL-24 and its receptors (IL-20R1 and IL-20R2) in control endometrium was significantly higher than that in eutopic and ectopic endometrium of women with endometriosis. Recombinant human IL-24 (rhIL-24) significantly inhibited the viability of ESCs in a dosage-dependent manner. Conversely, blocking IL-24 with anti-IL-24 neutralizing antibody promoted ESCs viability. In addition, rhIL-24 could downregulate the invasiveness of ESCs in vitro. After co-culture, macrophages markedly reduced the expression of IL-24 and IL-20R1 in ESCs, but not IL-22R1. Moreover, macrophages significantly restricted the inhibitory effect of IL-24 on the viability, invasion, the proliferation relative gene Ki-67, proliferating cell nuclear antigen (PCNA) and cyclooxygenase2 (COX-2), and the stimulatory effect on the tumor metastasis suppressor gene CD82 in ESCs. These results indicate that the abnormally low level of IL-24 in ESCs possibly induced by macrophages may lead to the enhancement of ESCs’ proliferation and invasiveness and contribute to the development of endometriosis.

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Hung-Fu Liao, Chu-Fan Mo, Shinn-Chih Wu, Dai-Han Cheng, Chih-Yun Yu, Kai-Wei Chang, Tzu-Hao Kao, Chia-Wei Lu, Marina Pinskaya, Antonin Morillon, Shih-Shun Lin, Winston T K Cheng, Déborah Bourc'his, Timothy Bestor, Li-Ying Sung and Shau-Ping Lin

Nuclear transfer (NT) is a technique used to investigate the development and reprogramming potential of a single cell. DNA methyltransferase-3-like, which has been characterized as a repressive transcriptional regulator, is expressed in naturally fertilized egg and morula/blastocyst at pre-implantation stages. In this study, we demonstrate that the use of Dnmt3l-knockout (Dnmt3l-KO) donor cells in combination with Trichostatin A treatment improved the developmental efficiency and quality of the cloned embryos. Compared with the WT group, Dnmt3l-KO donor cell-derived cloned embryos exhibited increased cell numbers as well as restricted OCT4 expression in the inner cell mass (ICM) and silencing of transposable elements at the blastocyst stage. In addition, our results indicate that zygotic Dnmt3l is dispensable for cloned embryo development at pre-implantation stages. In Dnmt3l-KO mouse embryonic fibroblasts, we observed reduced nuclear localization of HDAC1, increased levels of the active histone mark H3K27ac and decreased accumulation of the repressive histone marks H3K27me3 and H3K9me3, suggesting that Dnmt3l-KO donor cells may offer a more permissive epigenetic state that is beneficial for NT reprogramming.

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Mian Liu, Xia Chen, Qing-Xian Chang, Rui Hua, Yan-Xing Wei, Li-Ping Huang, Yi-xin Liao, Xiao-Jing Yue, Hao-Yue Hu, Fei Sun, Si-Jia Jiang, Song Quan and Yan-Hong Yu

Small extracellular vesicles (sEVs) are important mediators of cell-to-cell communication involved in the successful establishment of a pregnancy. Human decidual stromal cells play a key role in regulating trophoblast invasion. Nevertheless, the regulatory functions of decidual stromal cells-derived sEVs in human trophoblast cells are still unclear. In this study, primary human decidual stromal cells were isolated, and immortalized human endometrial stromal cell line (HESCs) were decidualized into human decidual stromal cells (HDSCs) using hormonal cocktail containing medroxy progesterone 17-acetate (MPA), estrogen and cAMP analog. HDSC-sEVs were isolated from both primary human decidual stromal cells and immortal HDSCs, respectively, and identified by transmission electron microscopy and western blotting. EV uptake assay indicated that HDSC-sEVs could be uptaken by trophoblast cells. HDSC-sEVs could increase the invasiveness and the expression level of N-cadherin of trophoblast cells with elevated phosphorylation of SMAD2 and SMAD3 in the cells. Silencing of N-cadherin could block cell invasion induced by HDSC-sEVs, while knockdown of SMAD2 and SMAD3 could inhibit the upregulation of N-cadherin in trophoblast cells. Taken together, our results suggested a regulatory effect of HDSC-sEVs in the invasion of trophoblast cells, and HDSC-sEVs may be important mediators of trophoblasts during embryo implantation and placentation.