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Zhen Teng, Chao Wang, Yijing Wang, Kun Huang, Xi Xiang, Wanbao Niu, Lizhao Feng, Lihua Zhao, Hao Yan and Hua Zhang

The reserve of primordial follicles determines the reproductive ability of the female mammal over its reproductive life. The primordial follicle is composed of two types of cells: oocytes and surrounding pre-granulosa cells. However, the underlying mechanism regulating primordial follicle assembly is largely undefined. In this study, we found that gap junction communication (GJC) established between the ovarian cells in the perinatal mouse ovary may be involved in the process. First, gap junction structures between the oocyte and surrounding pre-granulosa cells appear at about 19.0 dpc (days post coitum). As many as 12 gap junction-related genes are upregulated at birth, implying that a complex communication may exist between ovarian cells, because specifically silencing the genes of individual gap junction proteins, such as Gja 1, Gja4 or both, has no influence on primordial follicle assembly. On the other hand, non-specific blockers of GJC, such as carbenoxolone (CBX) and 18α-glycyrrhetinic acid (AGA), significantly inhibit mouse primordial follicle assembly. We proved that the temporal window for establishment of GJC in the fetal ovary is from 19.5 dpc to 1 dpp (days postpartum). In addition, the expression of ovarian somatic cell (OSC)-specific genes, such as Notch2, Foxl2 and Irx3, was negatively affected by GJC blockers, whereas oocyte-related genes, such as Ybx2, Nobox and Sohlh1, were hardly affected, implying that the establishment of GJC during this period may be more important to OSCs than to oocytes. In summary, our results indicated that GJC involves in the mouse primordial follicle assembly process at a specific temporal window that needs Notch signaling cross-talking.

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Guangyin Xi, Wenjing Wang, Sarfaraz A Fazlani, Fusheng Yao, Mingyao Yang, Jing Hao, Lei An and Jianhui Tian

Compared to ovarian antral follicle development, the mechanism underlying preantral follicle growth has not been well documented. Although C-type natriuretic peptide (CNP) involvement in preantral folliculogenesis has been explored, its detailed role has not been fully defined. Here, we used mouse preantral follicles and granulosa cells (GCs) as a model for investigating the dynamic expression of CNP and natriuretic peptide receptor 2 (NPR2) during preantral folliculogenesis, the regulatory role of oocyte-derived growth factors (ODGFs) in natriuretic peptide type C (Nppc) and Npr2 expression, and the effect of CNP on preantral GC viability. Both mRNA and protein levels of Nppc and Npr2 were gradually activated during preantral folliculogenesis. CNP supplementation in culture medium significantly promoted the growth of in vitro-cultured preantral follicles and enhanced the viability of cultured GCs in a follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH)-independent manner. Using adult and prepubertal mice as an in vivo model, CNP pre-treatment via intraperitoneal injection before conventional superovulation also had a beneficial effect on promoting the ovulation rate. Furthermore, ODGFs enhanced Nppc and Npr2 expression in the in vitro-cultured preantral follicles and GCs. Mechanistic study demonstrated that the regulation of WNT signaling and estrogen synthesis may be implicated in the promoting role of CNP in preantral folliculogenesis. This study not only proves that CNP is a critical regulator of preantral follicle growth, but also provides new insight in understanding the crosstalk between oocytes and somatic cells during early folliculogenesis.

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Dong Zhang, Shen Yin, Man-Xi Jiang, Wei Ma, Yi Hou, Cheng-Guang Liang, Ling-Zhu Yu, Wei-Hua Wang and Qing-Yuan Sun

The present study was designed to investigate the localization and function of cytoplasmic dynein (dynein) during mouse oocyte meiosis and its relationship with two major spindle checkpoint proteins, mitotic arrest-deficient (Mad) 1 and Mad2. Oocytes at various stages during the first meiosis were fixed and immunostained for dynein, Mad1, Mad2, kinetochores, microtubules, and chromosomes. Some oocytes were treated with nocodazole before examination. Anti-dynein antibody was injected into the oocytes at germinal vesicle (GV) stage before the examination of its effects on meiotic progression or Mad1 and Mad2 localization. Results showed that dynein was present in the oocytes at various stages from GV to metaphase II and the locations of Mad1 and Mad2 were associated with dynein’s movement. Both Mad1 and Mad2 had two existing states: one existed in the cytoplasm (cytoplasmic Mad1 or cytoplasmic Mad2), which did not bind to kinetochores, while the other bound to kinetochores (kinetochore Mad1 or kinetochore Mad2). The equilibrium between the two states varied during meiosis and/or in response to the changes of the connection between microtubules and kinetochores. Cytoplasmic Mad1 and Mad2 recruited to chromosomes when the connection between microtubules and chromosomes was destroyed. Inhibition of dynein interferes with cytoplasmic Mad1 and Mad2 transportation from chromosomes to spindle poles, thus inhibits checkpoint silence and delays anaphase onset. These results indicate that dynein may play a role in spindle checkpoint inactivation.

Free access

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.

Open access

Hai-Yan Hou, Xi Wang, Qi Yu, Hong-Yi Li, Shao-Jie Li, Rui-Yi Tang, Zai-Xin Guo, Ya-Qiong Chen, Chun-Xiu Hu, Zhi-Juan Yang, Wen-ke Zhang and Yan Qin

Decline in successful conception decreases more rapidly after 38 years of age owing to follicular depletion and decreased oocyte quality. However, limited information is available regarding the underlying mechanism and the useful treatment. This study aimed to evaluate the effects of growth hormone supplementation on oocyte maturation in vivo in aged and young mice and to determine its effect on mitochondrial function. The influence of three different doses of recombinant human growth hormone (rhGH) (0.4, 0.8 and 1.6 mg/kg/day) for 8 weeks before ovarian stimulation was analyzed. Superovulated oocytes were released from the oviduct of 12-week-old and 40-week-old female C57BL/6J mice 14–16 h after administration of human chorionic gonadotropin. Ovarian follicle and morphological analysis and oocyte maturation parameters were then evaluated. This study is the first, to our knowledge, to report that medium- and high-dose rhGH significantly increases antral follicles in aged mice but anti-Müllerian hormone (AMH) levels. Furthermore, derived oocytes, MII-stage oocyte rate, ATP levels, mitochondrial membrane potential and frequencies of homogeneous mitochondrial distribution increased. In contrast, in both aged and young mice, the mtDNA copy numbers per oocyte were similar before rhGH administration, and upon saline administration, they did not differ significantly. We conclude that medium-dose rhGH supplementation before standard ovarian stimulation regimens improves oocyte quality in aged mice, probably by enhancing mitochondrial functionality.

Free access

Qiao-Song Zheng, Xiao-Na Wang, Qing Wen, Yan Zhang, Su-Ren Chen, Jun Zhang, Xi-Xia Li, Ri-Na Sha, Zhao-Yuan Hu, Fei Gao and Yi-Xun Liu

Spermatogenesis is a complex process involving the regulation of multiple cell types. As the only somatic cell type in the seminiferous tubules, Sertoli cells are essential for spermatogenesis throughout the spermatogenic cycle. The Wilms tumor gene, Wt1, is specifically expressed in the Sertoli cells of the mouse testes. In this study, we demonstrated that Wt1 is required for germ cell differentiation in the developing mouse testes. At 10 days post partum, Wt1-deficient testes exhibited clear meiotic arrest and undifferentiated spermatogonia accumulation in the seminiferous tubules. In addition, the expression of claudin11, a marker and indispensable component of Sertoli cell integrity, was impaired in Wt1 −/flox; Cre-ER TM testes. This observation was confirmed in in vitro testis cultures. However, the basal membrane of the seminiferous tubules in Wt1-deficient testes was not affected. Based on these findings, we propose that Sertoli cells' status is affected in Wt1-deficient mice, resulting in spermatogenesis failure.

Restricted access

Shu-Fang Wang, Xi-Hua Chen, Bin He, De-Dong Yin, Hai-Jun Gao, Hao-Qi Zhao, Nan Nan, Shi-Ge Guo, Jian-Bing Liu, Bin Wu and Xiang-Bo Xu

Stress impacts the reproductive axis at the level of the hypothalamus and the pituitary gland, which exert an effect on the ovary. Menstruation is regulated by the hypothalamic–pituitary–ovary (HPO) axis. However, the role of stress in menstruation remains unclear. The objective of this study was to explore the role of stress in endometrial breakdown and shedding, using the pseudopregnant mouse menstrual-like model. Female mice were mated with vasectomized males and labeled day 0.5, upon observation of a vaginal seminal plug. On day 3.5, decidualization was induced in pseudopregnant mice using arachis oil. On day 5.5, pseudopregnant mice with artificial decidualization were placed in restraint tubes for 3 h. The findings indicated that acute restraint stress resulted in the disintegration of the endometrium. While corticosterone concentration in the serum increased significantly due to restraint stress, follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), luteinizing hormone (LH) and progesterone (P4) levels in the serum decreased significantly. An endometrial histology examination indicated that progesterone implants may rescue P4 decline caused by acute stress and block endometrium breakdown and shedding. In addition, mice were treated with metyrapone, an inhibitor of corticosterone synthesis, 1 h prior to being subjected to restraint stress. Interestingly, metyrapone not only inhibited stress-induced endometrium breakdown and shedding, but also prevented stress-induced reduction of P4, LH and FSH. Furthermore, real-time PCR and western blot showed that mRNA and protein expression of CYP11A1 (cytochrome P450, family 11, subfamily A, polypeptide 1) and steroidogenic acute regulatory protein (StAR), the two rate-limiting enzymes for progesterone synthesis in the ovary, decreased following acute stress. But metyrapone prevented the reduction of StAR expression induced by restraint stress. Overall, this study revealed that acute stress results in an increase in corticosterone, which may inhibit LH and FSH release in the serum and CYP11A1 and StAR expression in the ovary, which finally leads to the breakdown and shedding of the endometrium. These experimental findings, based on the mouse model, may enable further understanding of the effects of stress on menstruation regulation and determine the potential factors affecting stress-associated menstrual disorders.