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Xuemei Chen, Junlin He, Yubin Ding, Lan Zeng, Rufei Gao, Shuqun Cheng, Xueqing Liu, and Yingxiong Wang

Mammalian target of rapamycin (MTOR) is a protein kinase that plays a central role in cell growth and proliferation. It is a part of the signaling network transmitting growth factor signaling to translational control. Previous studies have shown that MTOR is involved in embryo implantation, but its expression in the uterus and its role in implantation are unclear. Here, we have investigated the expression and role of MTOR in mouse uterus during early pregnancy. RT-FQ PCR showed that the mRNA levels of Mtor in endometria of pregnant mice were higher than those of nonpregnant mice. The mRNA levels in the pregnant mice gradually increased from D3 of pregnancy, reached maximum on D5, and then declined afterward. In situ hybridization and immunohistochemical analysis showed that the mRNA and protein of MTOR were mainly located in stromal cells. The levels of the expressed MTOR protein correlate with those of mRNA. The number of implantation sites was greatly decreased by the intrauterine injection with rapamycin in the early morning of D4 of the pregnancy. These findings suggest that MTOR may play an important role in embryo implantation in mice.

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Liuhong Yang, Lei Chen, Xiaosheng Lu, Anni Tan, Yao Chen, Yalan Li, Xuemei Peng, Shaochun Yuan, Dongqing Cai, and Yanhong Yu

Peri-ovarian adipose tissue (POAT) is a kind of intra-abdominal white adipose tissue that is present surrounding the ovaries in rodents. Recent studies demonstrated that POAT-deficient mice displayed a phenotype of delayed antral follicular development, for which decreases in serum estrogen, serum FSH and FSHR levels were responsible. However, folliculogenesis is regulated by endocrine signals and also modulated by a number of locally produced intraovarian factors whose acts are both autocrine and paracrine. Here, we used a model of surgical removal of POAT unilaterally and contralateral ovaries as controls, as both were under the same endocrine control, to assess the paracrine effect of the POAT on folliculogenesis. Surgical removal of unilateral POAT resulted in delayed antral follicular development and the increased number of atretic follicles, accompanied by decreased levels of intraovarian adipokines and growth factors, lipid accumulation and steroidogenic enzyme expression. POAT-deficient ovaries displayed compensatory increased expressions of intraovarian genes, such as Vegf and Adpn for angiogenesis, Acc, Fasn, and Gapdh involved in lipogenesis and Fshr in response to FSH stimulation. Furthermore, we demonstrated that removal of POAT promoted follicular apoptosis, caused retention of cytoplasmic YAP and inhibited PTEN-AKT-mTOR activation. These alterations were observed only in the POAT-deficient ovaries but not in the contralateral ovaries (with POAT), which suggests that a paracrine interaction between POAT and ovaries is important for normal folliculogenesis.

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Yue Zhang, Mingyun Ni, Na Liu, Yongjiang Zhou, Xuemei Chen, Yubin Ding, Junlin He, Yingxiong Wang, Xueqing Liu, Yanqing Geng, and Liling Xie

Embryo implantation is a complex process involving synchronised crosstalk between a receptive endometrium and functional blastocysts. Apoptosis plays an important role in this process as well as in the maintenance of pregnancy. In this study, we analysed the expression pattern of programmed cell death 4 (Pdcd4), a gene associated with apoptosis in the mouse endometrium, during early pregnancy and pseudopregnancy by real-time quantitative polymerase chain reaction, in situ hybridisation, Western blotting and immunohistochemistry. The results showed that Pdcd4 was increased along with days of pregnancy and significantly reduced at implantation sites (IS) from day 5 of pregnancy (D5). The level of Pdcd4 at IS was substantially lower than that at interimplantation sites (IIS) on D6 and D7. In addition, Pdcd4 expression in the endometrium was reduced in response to artificially induced decidualisation in vivo and in vitro. Downregulation of Pdcd4 gene expression in cultured primary stromal cells promoted decidualisation, while upregulation inhibited the decidualisation process by increasing apoptosis. These results demonstrate that Pdcd4 is involved in stromal cell decidualisation by mediating apoptosis and therefore plays a role in embryo implantation in mice.

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Hong-Lan Song, Tai-Hang Liu, Yong-Heng Wang, Fang-Fang Li, Ling-Ling Ruan, Enoch Appiah Adu-Gyamfi, Si-Chen Hu, Xue-Mei Chen, Yu-Bin Ding, and Li-Juan Fu

The syncytiotrophoblast, derived from cytotrophoblast fusion, is responsible for maternal–fetal exchanges, secretion of pregnancy-related hormones, and fetal defense against pathogens. Inadequate cytotrophoblast fusion can lead to pregnancy disorders, such as preeclampsia and fetal growth restriction. However, little is known about the mechanism of cytotrophoblast fusion in both physiological and pathological pregnancy conditions. In this study, P57kip2 (P57), a cell cycle-dependent kinase inhibitor that negatively regulates the cell cycle, was found to be up-regulated during the process of syncytialization in both primary trophoblast cells and BeWo cells. Co-immunofluorescence with proliferation markers Ki67 and Cyclin-CDK factors further showed that P57 specifically localizes in the post-mitotic cytotrophoblast subtype of the early pregnancy villi. Overexpression of P57 promoted trophoblast syncytialization by arresting the cell cycle at the G1/G0 phase and inhibiting proliferation. Blocking of the cell cycle through a serum starvation culture resulted in an enhancement of cytotrophoblast fusion and the up-regulation of P57. In both spontaneous cytotrophoblast fusion and forskolin-induced BeWo cell fusion models, an initial up-regulation of P57 was observed followed by a subsequent down-regulation. These findings indicate that proper expression of P57 at cytotrophoblast differentiation nodes plays an important role in trophoblast syncytialization.

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Yang Yu, Chenhui Ding, Eryao Wang, Xinjie Chen, Xuemei Li, Chunli Zhao, Yong Fan, Liu Wang, Nathalie Beaujean, Qi Zhou, Alice Jouneau, and Weizhi Ji

Even though it generates healthy adults, nuclear transfer in mammals remains an inefficient process. Mainly attributed to abnormal reprograming of the donor chromatin, this inefficiency may also be caused at least partly by a specific effect of the cloning technique which has not yet been well investigated. There are two main procedures for transferring nuclei into enucleated oocytes: fusion and piezoelectric microinjection, the latter being used mostly in mice. We have, therefore, decided to compare the quality and the developmental ability, both in vivo and in vitro, of embryos reconstructed with electrofusion or piezoelectric injection. In addition, the effect of piezo setups of differing electric strengths was investigated. Along with the record of the rate of development, we compared the nuclear integrity in the blastomeres during the first cleavages as well as the morphological and cellular quality of the blastocysts. Our results show that the piezo-assisted micromanipulation can induce DNA damage in the reconstructed embryos, apoptosis, and reduced cell numbers in blastocysts as well as a lower rate of development to term. Even if piezo-driven injection facilitates a faster and more efficient rate of reconstruction, it should be used with precaution and with as low parameters as possible.