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Zubing Cao, Tengteng Xu, Xu Tong, Dandan Zhang, Chengxue Liu, Yiqing Wang, Di Gao, Lei Luo, Ling Zhang, Yunsheng Li and Yunhai Zhang

HASPIN kinase-catalyzed phosphorylation of histone H3 on threonine 3 (H3T3p) directs the activity and localization of chromosomal passenger complex (CPC) and spindle assembly checkpoint (SAC) to regulate chromosome condensation and segregation in both mitosis and meiosis. However, the function of HASPIN kinase in the meiotic maturation of porcine oocytes is not yet known. Here, we found that HASPIN mRNA is constantly expressed in porcine oocyte maturation and subsequent early embryo development. H3T3p is highly enriched on chromosomes at germinal vesicle breakdown (GVBD) stage and thereafter maintains a low level in progression through metaphase I (MI) to metaphase II (MII). Correspondingly, H3T3p was completely abolished in oocytes treated with an inhibitor of HASPIN kinase. Functionally, inhibition of HASPIN activity led to a significant reduction in the rate of oocyte meiotic maturation and the limited cumulus expansion. Additionally, HASPIN inhibition caused both spindle disorganization and chromosome misalignment in oocytes at MI and MII stage. Importantly, HASPIN inhibition severely prevented deacetylation of several highly conserved lysine (K) residues of histone H3 and H4 including H3K9, H3K14, H4K5, H4K8, H4K12 and H4K16 on the metaphase chromosomes during oocyte meiotic maturation. Taken together, these results demonstrate that HASPIN kinase regulates porcine oocyte meiotic maturation via modulating histone deacetylation.

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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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Jingbo Dai, Wangjie Xu, Xianglong Zhao, Meixing Zhang, Dong Zhang, Dongsheng Nie, Min Bao, Zhaoxia Wang, Lianyun Wang and Zhongdong Qiao

Many studies have revealed the hazardous effects of cigarette smoking and nicotine exposure on male fertility, but the actual, underlying molecular mechanism remains relatively unclear. To evaluate the detrimental effects of nicotine exposure on the sperm maturation process, two-dimensional gel electrophoresis and mass spectrometry analyses were performed to screen and identify differentially expressed proteins from the epididymal tissue of mice exposed to nicotine. Data mining analysis indicated that 15 identified proteins were mainly involved in the molecular transportation process and the polyol pathway, indicating impaired epididymal secretory functions. Experiments in vitro confirmed that nicotine inhibited tyrosine phosphorylation levels in capacitated spermatozoa via the downregulated seminal fructose concentration. Sord, a key gene encoding sorbitol dehydrogenase, was further investigated to reveal that nicotine induced hyper-methylation of the promoter region of this gene. Nicotine-induced reduced expression of Sord could be involved in impaired secretory functions of the epididymis and thus prevent the sperm from undergoing proper maturation and capacitation, although further experiments are needed to confirm this hypothesis.

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Xiaoyan Huang, Jun Zhang, Li Lu, Lanlan Yin, Min Xu, Youqun Wang, Zuomin Zhou and Jiahao Sha

Identification of genes specifically expressed in adult and fetal testis is important in furthering our understanding of testis development and function. In this study, a novel human transcript, designated human testis cAMP-responsive element-binding protein (htCREB), was identified by hybridization of adult and fetal human testis cDNA probes with a human cDNA microarray containing 9216 clones. The htCREB transcript (GenBank Accession no. AY347527) was expressed at 2.35-fold higher levels in adult human testes than in fetal testes. Sequence and ntBLAST analyses against the human genome database indicated that htCREB was a novel splice variant of human CREB. RT-PCR-based tissue distribution experiments demonstrated that the htCREB transcript was highly expressed in adult human testis and in healthy sperm, but not in testes from patients with Sertoli cell-only syndrome. Taken together, these results suggest that the htCREB transcript is chiefly expressed in germ cells and is most likely involved in spermatogenesis.

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Qian Chen, Yong Fan, Xiaowei Zhou, Zheng Yan, Yanping Kuang, Aijun Zhang and Chen Xu

Some studies have demonstrated that the implantation rate of fresh transfer cycles is lower in the gonadotropin-releasing hormone antagonist (GnRH-ant) protocol than in the GnRH agonist(GnRH-a) protocol during in vitro fertilization (IVF). This effect may be related to endometrial receptivity. However, the mechanisms are unclear. Here, endometrial tissues obtained from the mid-secretory phase of patients treated with GnRH-a or GnRH-ant protocols and from patients on their natural cycle were assessed. Endometrial expression of B-type creatine kinase (CKB), which plays important roles in the implantation phase, was significantly reduced in the GnRH-ant group. At the same time, expression of the endometrial receptivity marker HOXA10 was considerably reduced in the GnRH-ant group. GnRH-ant exposure in endometrial epithelial cells (EECs) in vitro decreased CKB expression and ATP generation, and blocked polymerization of actin. Furthermore, in vitro GnRH-ant-exposed Ishikawa cells showed enhanced F-actin depolymerization, and these effects were rescued by CKB overexpression. Similar effects were observed after CKB knockdown, and these effects were rescued by CKB overexpression. Moreover, cell migration was decreased in CKB-knockdown Ishikawa cells compared with that in control cells, and this effect was also rescued by CKB overexpression. Overall, these findings showed that GnRH-ant affected CKB expression in EECs, resulting in cytoskeletal damage and migration failure. These results provide insight into the roles and molecular mechanisms of GnRH-ant treatment in the endometrium.

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Huan Zhang, Xiaohua Jiang, Yuanwei Zhang, Bo Xu, Juan Hua, Tieliang Ma, Wei Zheng, Rui Sun, Wei Shen, Howard J Cooke, Qiaomei Hao, Jie Qiao and Qinghua Shi

In mammals, the primordial follicle pool, providing all oocytes available to a female throughout her reproductive life, is established perinatally. Dysregulation of primordial follicle assembly results in female reproductive diseases, such as premature ovarian insufficiency and infertility. Female mice lacking Dicer1 (Dicer), a gene required for biogenesis of microRNAs, show abnormal morphology of follicles and infertility. However, the contribution of individual microRNAs to primordial follicle assembly remains largely unknown. Here, we report that microRNA 376a (miR-376a) regulates primordial follicle assembly by modulating the expression of proliferating cell nuclear antigen (Pcna), a gene we previously reported to regulate primordial follicle assembly by regulating oocyte apoptosis in mouse ovaries. miR-376a was shown to be negatively correlated with Pcna mRNA expression in fetal and neonatal mouse ovaries and to directly bind to Pcna mRNA 3′ untranslated region. Cultured 18.5 days postcoitum mouse ovaries transfected with miR-376a exhibited decreased Pcna expression both in protein and mRNA levels. Moreover, miR-376a overexpression significantly increased primordial follicles and reduced apoptosis of oocytes, which was very similar to those in ovaries co-transfected with miR-376a and siRNAs targeting Pcna. Taken together, our results demonstrate that miR-376a regulates primordial follicle assembly by modulating the expression of Pcna. To our knowledge, this is the first microRNA–target mRNA pair that has been reported to regulate mammalian primordial follicle assembly and further our understanding of the regulation of primordial follicle assembly.

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Wei-Bin Wu, Yue-Ying Xu, Wei-Wei Cheng, Bo Yuan, Jiu-Ru Zhao, Yan-Lin Wang and Hui-Juan Zhang

Fetal growth restriction (FGR) threatens perinatal health and is correlated with increased incidence of fetal original adult diseases. Most cases of FGR were idiopathic, which were supposed to be associated with placental abnormality. Decreased circulating placental growth factor (PGF) was recognized as an indication of placental deficiency in FGR. In this study, the epigenetic regulation of PGF in FGR placentas and the involvement of PGF in modulation of trophoblast activity were investigated. The expression level of PGF in placental tissues was determined by RT-qPCR, immunohistochemistry and ELISA. DNA methylation profile of PGF gene was analyzed by bisulfite sequencing. Trophoblastic cell lines were treated with ZM-306416, an inhibitor of PGF receptor FLT1, to observe the effect of PGF/FLT1 signaling on cell proliferation and migration. We demonstrated that PGF was downregulated in placentas from FGR pregnancies compared with normal controls. The villous expression of PGF was positively correlated with placental and fetal weight. The CpG island inside PGF promoter was hypomethylated without obvious difference in both normal and FGR placentas. However, the higher DNA methylation at another CpG island downstream exon 7 of PGF was demonstrated in FGR placentas. Additionally, we found FLT1 was expressed in trophoblast cells. Inhibition of PGF/FLT1 signaling by a selective inhibitor impaired trophoblast proliferation and migration. In conclusion, our data suggested that the PGF expression was dysregulated, and disrupted PGF/FLT1 signaling in trophoblast might contribute to placenta dysfunction in FGR. Thus, our results support the significant role of PGF in the pathogenesis of FGR.

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Yali Xu, Yong Fan, Weimin Fan, Jia Jing, Ke Xue, Xing Zhang, Bin Ye, Yingjie Ji, Yue Liu and Zhide Ding

Asthenozoospermia is one of the leading causes of male infertility owing to a decline in sperm motility. Herein, we determined if there is a correlation between RNASET2 content on human spermatozoa and sperm motility in 205 semen samples from both asthenozoospermia patients and normozoospermia individuals. RNASET2 content was higher in sperm from asthenozoospermia patients than in normozoospermia individuals. On the other hand, its content was inversely correlated with sperm motility as well as progressive motility. Moreover, the inhibitory effect of RNASET2 on sperm motility was induced by incubating normozoospermic sperm with RNase T2 protein. Such treatment caused significant declines in intracellular spermatozoa PKA activity, PI3K activity and calcium level, which resulted in severely impaired sperm motility, and the sperm motility was largely rescued by cAMP supplementation. Finally, protein immunoprecipitation and mass spectrometry identified proteins whose interactions with RNASET2 were associated with declines in human spermatozoa motility. AKAP4, a protein regulating PKA activity, coimmunoprecipated with RNASET2 and they colocalized with one another in the sperm tail, which might contribute to reduced sperm motility. Thus, RNASET2 may be a novel biomarker of asthenozoospermia. Increases in RNASET2 can interact with AKAP4 in human sperm tail and subsequently reduce sperm motility by suppressing PKA/PI3K/calcium signaling pathways.

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Yan Xu, Miao Liu, Yi-hua Gu, Xiao-feng Jia, Yong-Mei Chen, Michelle Santos, Ai-Zhen Wu, Xiao-dong Zhang, Hui-Juan Shi and Ching-Ling C Chen

With tetraspanning topology, members of the membrane-spanning four-domain subfamily A (MS4A) may facilitate signaling or ion channel functions in many tissues. In this study, we report the cloning of a full-length cDNA from rat testis, designated Ms4a14 (Sp3111), which encodes the MS4A protein with 1139 amino acid residues. In situ hybridization and immunohistochemical analyses indicate that Ms4a14 is predominantly expressed from round spermatids to spermatozoa at specific stages in the rat testis at both the mRNA and protein level. Immunofluorescence analysis revealed that MS4A14 (SP3111) is located in the acrosome and the midpiece of the flagellum in mature sperm. Previously, we explored and reported the involvement of MS4A14 in reproductive functions, using antibody blockage during IVF and a transgenic RNA interference method in a mouse model. Our results suggested that MS4A14 is involved in fertilization and zygote division. As MS4A14 protein exists in mammals, such as humans, cows, dogs, and rodents, MS4A14 may play a ubiquitous role in mammalian reproduction.

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Su Liu, Hongxia Wei, Yuye Li, Lianghui Diao, Ruochun Lian, Xu Zhang and Yong Zeng

During pregnancy, the maternal immune system must tolerate the persistence of semi-allogeneic fetus in the maternal tissue. Inadequate recognition of fetal antigens may lead to pregnancy complications, such as recurrent miscarriage (RM) and recurrent implantation failure (RIF). Dendritic cells (DCs) are key regulators of protective immune responses and the development and maintenance of tolerance. Regarding that DCs are important in the establishment of immune tolerance in human pregnancy, it would be important to study the microenvironment in which DCs reside or are activated may affect their functions toward tolerance rather than active immune response. IL-10 plays a critical role in the maintenance of normal pregnancy, and the increased production of IL-10 is associated with successful pregnancy. In this study, we provide an in-depth comparison of the phenotype and cytokine production by DC-10 and other DC subsets, such as iDC and mDC. CD14+ monocyte-derived DCs were differentiated in the presence of IL-10 (DC-10) in vitro from ten normal fertile controls, six RM women and seven RIF women, and characterized for relevant markers. DC-10 was characterized by relatively low expression of costimulatory molecule CD86, as well as MHC class II molecule HLA-DR, high expression of tolerance molecules HLA-G, ILT2, ILT4 and immunosuppressive cytokine IL-10, but produced little or no proinflammatory cytokines, such as TNF-α, IL-6 and IL-12p70. Our study provides a better understanding of the phenotypical properties of DC-10, which may participate in the complex orchestration that leads to maternal immune tolerance and homeostatic environment in human pregnancy.