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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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Li-Juan Xiao, Jin-Xiang Yuan, Xin-Xin Song, Yin-Chuan Li, Zhao-Yuan Hu and Yi-Xun Liu

Stanniocalcin-1 (STC-1) is a recently discovered polypeptide hormone, while stanniocalcin-2 (STC-2) is a subsequently identified homologue of stanniocalcin-1. Although previous studies have shown that both STC-1 and -2 are involved in various physiological processes, such as ion transport, reproduction and development, their expression in the uterus and roles in implantation and early pregnancy are unclear. Here we have investigated the expression and regulation of both STC-1 and STC-2 in rat uterus during early pregnancy under various physiological conditions. We show that only basal levels of STC-1 and STC-2 mRNA were detected in the uterus from day one (D1) to day five (D5) of pregnancy. STC-2 immunostaining was gradually increased in the glandular epithelium from day two (D2), with a peak occurring on D5. High levels of both STC-1 and STC-2 mRNA were observed in the stoma cells at the implantation site on day six (D6) of pregnancy, whereas their immunostaining signals were also significant in the luminal epithelium. Basal levels of both STC-1 and STC-2 mRNA and STC-1 immunostaining were detected in the uterus with delayed implantation. After the delayed implantation was terminated by estrogen treatment, both STC-1 and STC-2 mRNA signals were significantly induced in the stroma underlying the luminal epithelium at the implantation site, and STC-2 immunostaining was also observed in the luminal epithelium surrounding the implanting blastocyst. Embryo transfer experiments further confirmed that STC-1 and STC-2 expression at the implantation sites was induced by the implanting blastocyst. Both STC-1 mRNA and immunostaining were seen in the decidualized cells from day seven (D7) to day nine (D9) of pregnancy. STC-2 mRNA was also found in the whole decidua from D7 to D9 of pregnancy; STC-2 protein, however, was strictly localized to the primary deciduas on D7 and D8, with a weak expression in the whole deciduas on D9. Consistent with the normal pregnancy process, strong STC-1 and STC-2 mRNA signals were detected in the decidualized cells under artificial decidualization, whereas only basal levels of STC-1 mRNA and immunostaining were observed in the control horn. These data suggest, for the first time, that STC-1 together with STC-2 may play important roles in the processes of implantation and decidualization in the rat.

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Dong Han, Xin-Yan Cao, Hui-Li Wang, Jing-Jing Li, Yan-Bo Wang and Jing-He Tan

Although studies suggest that the low competence of oocytes from prepubertal animals is due to their insufficient cytoplasmic maturation and that FSH improves oocyte maturation possibly by retarding meiotic progression and allowing more time for cytoplasmic maturation, the mechanisms by which puberty and gonadotropins regulate meiotic progression require additional detailed studies. For the first time, we observed that while meiotic progression was significantly slower, the maturation-promoting factor (MPF) activity of oocytes was significantly higher in prepubertal than in adult mice. To resolve this contradiction, we specified the molecules regulating the MPF activity and their localization during oocyte maturation in prepubertal and adult mice primed with or without gonadotropins. Our tests using corresponding enzyme regulators suggested that while activities of protein kinase A were unaffected, the activity of adenylate cyclase (ADCY) and phosphodiesterase increased while cell division cycle 2 homolog A (CDC2A) decreased significantly after puberty. While most of the adult oocytes had CDC2A protein concentrated in the germinal vesicle (GV) region, the majority of prepubertal oocytes showed no nuclear concentration of CDC2A. Maximally priming mice with equine chorionic gonadotropin brought the above parameters of prepubertal oocytes close to those in adult oocytes. Together, the results suggest that puberty and gonadotropin control oocyte meiotic progression mainly by regulating the ADCY activity and the concentration of the activated MPF toward the GV region.

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Tian-Hong Zhu, Shao-Jie Ding, Tian-Tian Li, Li-Bo Zhu, Xiu-Feng Huang and Xin-Mei Zhang

Endometriosis is an estrogen-dependent disease. Previous research has shown that abnormal enzymes associated with estrogen (E2) metabolism and an increased number of mast cells (MCs) in endometriomas are implicated in the pathogenesis of endometriosis. However, it remains unclear how MCs mediate the role of E2 in endometriosis. Accordingly, we investigated whether E2 was associated with the number of MCs, and the rate of degranulation, in local ovarian endometriomas, as well as the role of E2 on MCs during the pathogenesis of endometriosis. Using enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay and immunohistochemistry, we found that concentrations of E2, and the number and activity of MCs, were significantly higher in ovarian endometriomas than in controls, and that these parameters were correlated with the severity of endometriosis-associated dysmenorrhea. By measuring the release of hexosaminidase, we found that the rate of RBL2H3 cell degranulation increased after E2 treatment. Furthermore, activation of RBL2H3 cells by E2 was found to trigger the release of biologically active nerve growth factor, which promotes neurite outgrowth in PC12 cells and also sensitizes dorsal root ganglion cells via upregulation of Nav1.8 and transient receptor potential cation channel (subfamily V member 1) expression levels. When treated with E2, endometriotic cells could promote RBL2H3 cell recruitment by upregulating expression levels of stem cell factor, transforming growth factor-β and monocyte chemoattractant protein-1; these observations were not evident with control endometrial cells. Thus, elevated E2 concentrations may be a key factor for degranulation and recruitment of MCs in ovarian endometriomas, which play a key role in endometriosis-associated dysmenorrhea.

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Xin Yuan, Jianlin Du, Qin Qin, Xiaoqun Li, Songbai Deng, Yunqing Chen, Ling Zhang and Qiang She

Genetic lineage tracing has been used extensively in developmental biology. Many transcription factors expressed in sperm may induce Cre-mediated loxP recombination during early zygote development. In this study, we investigated the effect of sperm-expressed Cre on cell type-specific Cre-mediated loxP recombination in fate-mapping models of Tbx18+ progenitor cells. We found the recombination frequency in a reverse mating (RM) lineage was inconsistent with a normal Mendelian distribution. However, the recombination frequency in a positive mating (PM) lineage agreed with a Mendelian distribution. In the PM lineage, LacZ and EYFP were expressed in specific locations, such as the limb buds, heart, and hair follicles. Therefore, the reporter genes accurately and reliably traced cell differentiation in the PM lineage. In contrast, EYFP and LacZ were expressed throughout the embryo in the RM lineage. Thus, the reporter genes did not trace cell differentiation specifically in the RM lineage. Furthermore, Tbx18 mRNA and protein were expressed in the testicles of male mice, but almost no Tbx18 expression was detected in the ovaries of female mice. Similarly, reporter genes and Tbx18 were coexpressed in the seminiferous tubules and sperm cells of testicles. These results revealed that Cre-loxP-mediated pre-recombination in zygotes is due to Tbx18 expressed in testicle sperm cells when Cre is transmitted paternally. Our results indicate that Cre-mediated specific recombination in fate-mapping models of sperm-expressed genes may be influenced by the paternal origin of Cre. Therefore, a careful experimental design is critical when using the Cre-loxP system to trace spatial, temporal or tissue-specific fates.

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Cheng Zeng, Pei-Li Wu, Zhao-Tong Dong, Xin Li, Ying-Fang Zhou and Qing Xue

Endometriosis is an estrogen-dependent disease, and estrogen receptor 2 (ESR2) plays a critical role in the pathogenesis of ovarian endometriosis by promoting cell invasion. Yes-associated protein 1 (YAP1) plays suppressive roles in several types of tumors. However, the relationship between YAP1 and ESR2 is not fully understood. The aim of this study was to investigate the regulatory mechanism of YAP1 in terms of ESR2 and YAP1 regulation of endometriotic stromal cell (ECSC) invasion in ovarian endometriosis. Our results demonstrated that YAP1 mRNA and protein levels in eutopic endometrium (EU) tissues were higher than those in paired ectopic endometrium (EC) tissues. ECSCs transfected with siYAP1 exhibited a significant increase in both ESR2 mRNA levels and protein expression. Simultaneously, YAP1 overexpression in ECSCs yielded the opposite results. Co-IP assays demonstrated YAP1-NuRD complex formation by YAP1, CHD4 and MTA1 in ECSCs. YAP1 bound to two sites, (-539, -533) and (-158, -152), upstream of the ESR2 transcription initiation site. YAP1 binding to the two sites of the ESR2 promoter in ECSCs was significantly lower than that in eutopic endometrial stromal cells (EUSCs) from EU tissues. ECSCs transfected with siYAP1 exhibited increased invasion activity, while ECSCs transfected with siESR2 showed inhibition of invasion. However, transfection with siYAP1 and siESR2 together decreased the number of invading cells compared with transfection with siYAP1 alone. Therefore, we conclude that decreased levels of YAP1 in ovarian endometriomas enhance ESR2 expression via formation of a YAP1-NuRD complex, which further binds to the ESR2 promoters. Furthermore, YAP1 inhibits ECSCs invasion.

Free access

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.

Restricted access

Hong-Jie Yuan, Zhi-Bin Li, Xin-Yue Zhao, Guang-Yi Sun, Guo-Liang Wang, Ying-Qi Zhao, Min Zhang and Jing-He Tan

Mechanisms by which female stress and particularly glucocorticoids impair oocyte competence are largely unclear. Although one study demonstrated that glucocorticoids triggered apoptosis in ovarian cells and oocytes by activating the FasL/Fas system, other studies suggested that they might induce apoptosis through activating other signaling pathways as well. In this study, both in vivo and in vitro experiments were conducted to test the hypothesis that glucocorticoids might trigger apoptosis in oocytes and ovarian cells through activating the TNF-α system. The results showed that cortisol injection of female mice (1.) impaired oocyte developmental potential and mitochondrial membrane potential with increased oxidative stress; (2.) induced apoptosis in mural granulosa cells (MGCs) with increased oxidative stress in the ovary; and (3.) activated the TNF-α system in both ovaries and oocytes. Culture with corticosterone induced apoptosis and activated the TNF-α system in MGCs. Knockdown or knockout of TNF-α significantly ameliorated the pro-apoptotic effects of glucocorticoids on oocytes and MGCs. However, culture with corticosterone downregulated TNF-α expression significantly in oviductal epithelial cells. Together, the results demonstrated that glucocorticoids impaired oocyte competence and triggered apoptosis in ovarian cells through activating the TNF-α system and that the effect of glucocorticoids on TNF-α expression might vary between cell types.

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Qiaoge Niu, Maosheng Cao, Chenfeng Yuan, Yuwen Huang, Zijiao Zhao, Boqi Zhang, Xin Wang, Yameng Wei, Wenjing Fan, Xu Zhou and Chunjin Li

Nerve growth factor (NGF) has been proved to play important roles in male reproductive physiology, but the molecular mechanisms of NGF action remain unclear. In this study, the effects of NGF on the growth of newborn bovine testicular Sertoli (NBS) cells and the related signaling pathways were investigated. The NBS cells were treated in vitro with NGF (100 ng/mL) for 18 h. The expression levels of cell proliferation related genes, INHBB, and cytoplasmic specialization related gene were determined using real-time PCR and Western blot. The roles of PI3K/AKT and MAPK/ERK pathways in NGF-induced cell proliferation were investigated. It was found that NGF regulates proliferation and function of NBS cells via its receptor NTRK1 by activating the PI3K/ATK and MAPK/ERK signaling pathways. The study will help to further understand the role of NGF in male reproduction and provide new therapeutic targets for reproductive dysfunctions in male animals.

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.