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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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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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Liu Shi-fan, Wang Zhong-xing, Yuan Yao-e, Bing Sheng-min, Zhang Bei-zhu, Wu Jin-zhi, Wu Yi-e and Peng Xin-ying

Summary. The concentrations of LH, FSH, prolactin, oestradiol and progesterone in serum were measured daily during the menstrual cycle of 100 normal Chinese women. The cyclic changes in LH, FSH, oestradiol and progesterone were typical of ovulatory cycles in women of other ethnic groups as reported in the literature. The geometric mean of the LH midcycle peak value was 51·64 i.u./l, the FSH mid-cycle peak value was 11 ·52 i.u./l, the preovulatory oestradiol peak was 1229·12 pmol/1, and the progesterone luteal maximum was 53·27 nmol/1. The cyclic changes of prolactin concentrations were irregular: the value at mid-cycle was significantly higher than that at the follicular or luteal phases.

A correlation between the length of the cycle and mean concentrations of LH and oestradiol at different stages throughout the cycle was shown.

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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.

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.

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Xue-Ying Zhang, Yi-Meng Xiong, Ya-Jing Tan, Li Wang, Rong Li, Yong Zhang, Xin-Mei Liu, Xian-Hua Lin, Li Jin, Yu-Ting Hu, Zhen-Hua Tang, Zheng-Mu Wu, Feng-Hua Yin, Zheng-Quan Wang, Ye Xiao, Jian-Zhong Sheng and He-Feng Huang

Fertilization failure often occurs during in vitro fertilization (IVF) cycles despite apparently normal sperm and oocytes. Accumulating evidence suggests that mitochondria play crucial roles in the regulation of sperm function and male fertility. 3-Nitrophthalic acid (3-NPA) can induce oxidative stress in mitochondria, and melatonin, as an antioxidant, can improve mitochondrial function by reducing mitochondrial oxidative stress. The role of sperm mitochondrial dysfunction in fertilization failure during IVF is unclear. The present study revealed that spermatozoa with low, or poor, fertilization rates had swollen mitochondria, increased mitochondria-derived ROS, and attenuated mitochondrial respiratory capacity. 3-NPA treatment enhanced mitochondrial dysfunction in sperm. Spermatozoa with poor fertilization rates, and spermatozoa treated with 3-NPA, had reduced penetration ability. The concentration of melatonin was decreased in semen samples with low and poor fertilization rates. Melatonin, not only decreased excessive mitochondria-derived ROS, but also ‘rescued’ the reduced penetration capacity of spermatozoa treated with 3-NPA. Taken together, the study suggested that mitochondria-derived ROS and mitochondrial respiratory capacity are independent bio-markers for sperm dysfunction, and melatonin may be useful in improving sperm quality and overall male fertility.

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.