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Xiaoyun Pan, Xia Chen, Xin Tong, Chao Tang and Jianmin Li

Protein phosphatase 2A (PP2A) is a ubiquitous serine/threonine phosphatase involved in meiosis, mitosis, sperm capacitation, and apoptosis. Abberant activity of PP2A has been associated with a number of diseases. The homolog PPP2CA and PPP2CB can each function as the phosphatase catalytic subunit generally referred to as PP2AC. We generated a Ppp2ca conditional knockout (CKO) in C57BL/6J mice. Exon 2 of Ppp2ca was knocked out in a spatial or temporal-specific manner in primordial germ cells at E12.5. This Ppp2ca-null mutation caused infertility in male C57BL/6J mice. These CKO mice provide a powerful tool to study the mechanisms of Ppp2ca in development and disease.

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Kun Li, Yue Liu, Xiaoyu Xia, Li Wang, Meige Lu, Yanqin Hu and Chen Xu

Bactericidal/permeability-increasing protein (BPI) is a 455-residue (∼55 kDa) protein found mainly in the primary (azurophilic) granules of human neutrophils. BPI is an endogenous antibiotic protein that belongs to the family of mammalian lipopolysaccharide (LPS)-binding and lipid transport proteins. Its major function is to kill Gram-negative bacteria, thereby protecting the host from infection. In addition, BPI can inhibit angiogenesis, suppress LPS-mediated platelet activation, increase DNA synthesis, and activate ERK/Akt signaling. In this study, we found that Bpi was expressed in the testis and epididymis but not in the seminal vesicles, prostate, and solidification glands. BPI expression in the epididymis increased upon upregulation of testosterone, caused by injection of GNRH. In orchidectomized mice, BPI expression was significantly reduced, but its expression was restored to 30% of control levels in orchidectomized mice that received supplementary testosterone. The number of sperm fused per egg significantly decreased after incubation with anti-BPI antiserum. These results suggest that BPI may take part in the process of sperm–oocyte fusion and play a unique and significant role in reproduction.

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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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Jian Shen, Wen Chen, Binbin Shao, Yujuan Qi, Zhengrong Xia, Fuqiang Wang, Lei Wang, Xuejiang Guo, Xiaoyan Huang and Jiahao Sha

Spermiogenesis is a complex process of terminal differentiation that is necessary to produce mature sperm. Using protein expression profiles of mouse and human testes generated from our previous studies, we chose to examine the actions of lamin A/C in the current investigation. Lamin A and lamin C are isoforms of the A-type lamins that are encoded by the LMNA gene. Our results showed that lamin A/C was expressed in the mouse testis throughout the different stages of spermatogenesis and in mature sperm. Lamin A/C was also expressed in mouse haploid germ cells and was found to be localized to the acroplaxome in spermiogenesis, from round spermatids until mature spermatozoa. The decreased expression of lamin A/C following injections of siRNA against Lmna caused a significant increase in caudal sperm head abnormalities when compared with negative controls. These abnormalities were characterized by increased fragmentation of the acrosome and abnormal vesicles, which failed to fuse to the developing acrosome. This fragmentation also caused significant alterations in nuclear elongation and acrosome formation. Furthermore, we found that lamin A/C interacted with the microtubule plus-end-tracking protein CLIP170. These results suggest that lamin A/C is critical for proper structural and functional development of the sperm acrosome and head shape.

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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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Pan-Pan Cheng, Jun-Jie Xia, Hai-Long Wang, Ji-Bing Chen, Fei-Yu Wang, Ye Zhang, Xin Huang, Quan-Jun Zhang and Zhong-Quan Qi

Maternal diabetes adversely affects preimplantation embryo development and oocyte maturation. Thus, it is important to identify ways to eliminate the effects of maternal diabetes on preimplantation embryos and oocytes. The objectives of this study were to investigate whether islet transplantation could reverse the effects of diabetes on oocytes. Our results revealed that maternal diabetes induced decreased ovulation; increased the frequency of meiotic spindle defects, chromosome misalignment, and aneuploidy; increased the relative expression levels of Mad2 and Bub1; and enhanced the sensitivity of oocytes to parthenogenetic activation. Islet transplantation prevented these detrimental effects. Therefore, we concluded that islet transplantation could reverse the effects of diabetes on oocytes, and that this technique may be useful to treat the fundamental reproductive problems of women with diabetes mellitus.

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Cai-Xia Yang, Zhao-Hui Kou, Kai Wang, Yan Jiang, Wen-Wei Mao, Qing-Yuan Sun, Hui-Zhen Sheng and Da-Yuan Chen

In cloned animals where somatic cell nuclei and oocytes are from the same or closely related species, the mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) of the oocyte is dominantly inherited. However, in nuclear transfer (NT) embryos where nuclear donor and oocyte are from two distantly related species, the distribution of the mtDNA species is not known. Here we determined the levels of macaque and rabbit mtDNAs in macaque embryos reprogrammed by rabbit oocytes. Quantification using a real-time PCR method showed that both macaque and rabbit mtDNAs coexist in NT embryos at all preimplantation stages, with maternal mtDNA being dominant. Single NT embryos at the 1-cell stage immediately after fusion contained 2.6 × 104 copies of macaque mtDNA and 1.3 × 106 copies of rabbit mtDNA. Copy numbers of both mtDNA species did not change significantly from the 1-cell to the morula stages. In the single blastocyst, however, the number of rabbit mtDNA increased dramatically while macaque mtDNA decreased. The ratio of nuclear donor mtDNA to oocyte mtDNA dropped sharply from 2% at the 1-cell stage to 0.011% at the blastocyst stage. These results suggest that maternal mtDNA replicates after the morula stage.

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Ma Tian-Zhong, Chen Bi, Zhang Ying, Jing Xia, Peng Cai-Ling, Zhang Yun-Shan, Huang Mei-Wen and Niu Yan-Ru

Abstract

Emx2 deletion impairs the growth and maintenance of the genital ridge. However, its role in subsequent germ cell differentiation during embryonic stages is unknown. Using a tamoxifen-inducible Cre-loxP mouse model (Emx2 flox/flox, Cre-ER TM, hereafter called as Emx2 knockdown), we showed that germ cell differentiation was impaired in Emx2-knockdown testes. Representative characteristics of male germ cell differentiation, including a reduced ability to form embryonic germ (EG) cell colonies in vitro, down-regulation of pluripotency markers and G1/G0 arrest, did not occur in Emx2-knockdown testes. Furthermore, FGF9 and NODAL signalling occurred at abnormally high levels in Emx2-knockdown testes. Both blocking FGF9 signalling with SU5402 and inhibiting NODAL signalling with SB431542 allowed germ cells from Emx2-knockdown testes to differentiate in vitro. Therefore, EMX2 in somatic cells is required to trigger germ cell differentiation in XY foetuses, posterior to its previously reported role in the growth and maintenance of the genital ridge.

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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.

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Cheng Jin, Yan Zhang, Zhi-Peng Wang, Xiu-Xia Wang, Tie-Cheng Sun, Xiao-Yu Li, Ji-Xin Tang, Jin-Mei Cheng, Jian Li, Su-Ren Chen, Shou-Long Deng and Yi-Xun Liu

Spermatogenesis is crucial for male fertility and is therefore tightly controlled by a variety of epigenetic regulators. However, the function of enhancer of zeste homolog 2 (EZH2) in spermatogenesis and the molecular mechanisms underlying its activity remain poorly defined. Here, we demonstrate that deleting EZH2 promoted spermatogonial differentiation and apoptosis. EZH2 is expressed in spermatogonia, spermatocytes and round and elongated spermatids from stage 9 to 11 but not in leptotene and zygotene spermatocytes. Knocking down Ezh2 in vitro using a lentivirus impaired self-renewal in spermatogonial stem cells (SSCs), and the conditional knockout of Ezh2 in spermatogonial progenitors promoted precocious spermatogonial differentiation. EZH2 functions to balance self-renewal and differentiation in spermatogonia by suppressing NEUROG3 and KIT via a direct interaction that is independent of its histone methyltransferase activity. Moreover, deleting Ezh2 enhanced the activation of CASP3 in spermatids, resulting in reduced spermatozoa production. Collectively, these data demonstrate that EZH2 plays a nonclassical role in the regulation of spermatogonial differentiation and apoptosis in murine spermatogenesis.