Spermatogenesis is a continuous and productive process supported by the self-renewal and differentiation of spermatogonial stem cells (SSCs), which arise from undifferentiated precursors known as gonocytes and are strictly controlled in a special ‘niche’ microenvironment in the seminiferous tubules. Sertoli cells, the only somatic cell type in the tubules, directly interact with SSCs to control their proliferation and differentiation through the secretion of specific factors. Spermatocyte meiosis is another key step of spermatogenesis, which is regulated by Sertoli cells on the luminal side of the blood–testis barrier through paracrine signaling. In this review, we mainly focus on the role of Sertoli cells in the regulation of SSC self-renewal and spermatocyte meiosis, with particular emphasis on paracrine and endocrine-mediated signaling pathways. Sertoli cell growth factors, such as glial cell line-derived neurotrophic factor (GDNF) and fibroblast growth factor 2 (FGF2), as well as Sertoli cell transcription factors, such as ETS variant 5 (ERM; also known as ETV5), nociceptin, neuregulin 1 (NRG1), and androgen receptor (AR), have been identified as the most important upstream factors that regulate SSC self-renewal and spermatocyte meiosis. Other transcription factors and signaling pathways (GDNF–RET–GFRA1 signaling, FGF2–MAP2K1 signaling, CXCL12–CXCR4 signaling, CCL9–CCR1 signaling, FSH–nociceptin/OPRL1, retinoic acid/FSH–NRG/ERBB4, and AR/RB–ARID4A/ARID4B) are also addressed.
Su-Ren Chen and Yi-Xun Liu
Wenqian Xiong, Ling Zhang, Lan Yu, Wei Xie, Yicun Man, Yao Xiong, Hengwei Liu and Yi Liu
Endometriosis is an estrogen-dependent disease that involves the adhesion, invasion, and angiogenesis of endometrial tissues outside of the uterine cavity. We hypothesized that a link exists between estrogen and beta-catenin (β-catenin) signaling in the pathogenesis of endometriosis. Human endometrial stromal cells (HESCs) were separated from eutopic endometrial tissues that were obtained from patients with endometriosis. β-catenin expression and cells invasiveness ability were up-regulated by 17β-estradiol (E2) in an estrogen receptor (ESR)-dependent manner, whereas β-catenin siRNA abrogated this phenomenon. Moreover, co-immunoprecipitation and dual immunofluorescence studies confirmed ESR1, β-catenin, and lymphoid enhancer factor 1/T cell factor 3 co-localization in the nucleus in HESCs after E2 treatment. To determine the role of β-catenin signaling in the implantation of ectopic endometrium, we xenotransplanted eutopic endometrium from endometriosis patients into ovariectomized severe combined immunodeficiency mice. The implantation of the endometrium was suppressed by β-catenin siRNA. Collectively, studies regarding β-catenin signaling are critical for improving our understanding of the pathogenesis of estrogen-induced endometriosis, which can translate into the development of treatments and therapeutic strategies for endometriosis.
Na Li, Ling Zhang, Qi Li, Yu Du, Hengwei Liu, Yi Liu and Wenqian Xiong
Oestrogen has been reported to control the invasiveness of endometrial stromal cells in endometriosis. Notch signalling, a master regulator of cell invasion in tumours, is regulated by oestrogen in other diseases and hyperactivated in endometriotic stromal cells. Therefore, we hypothesized that an interaction between Notch signalling and oestrogen may exist in the regulation of endometrial stromal cell invasion, which is essential for the development of endometriosis. Western blot analysis of tissues showed that the expression levels of Notch components (JAG1 and NOTCH1) and Notch activity were markedly higher in ectopic endometria than in their eutopic and normal counterparts. Primary stromal cells obtained from normal endometria cultured with oestrogen presented significant increases in the expression of Notch components and Notch activity, the cytoplasmic and nuclear accumulation of NOTCH1 intracellular domain, the expression of matrix metallopeptidase 9 and vascular endothelial growth factor and cell invasiveness. Knockdown of NOTCH1 markedly alleviated oestrogen-induced matrix metallopeptidase 9 and vascular endothelial growth factor expression and cell invasion. ICI (an oestrogen receptor α antagonist) also blocked these oestrogenic effects. Oestrogen-responsive elements were found in the promoters of NOTCH1 and JAG1. A luciferase reporter analysis revealed that oestrogen regulated the expression of Notch components via oestrogen receptor alpha, which is bound to oestrogen-responsive elements in the JAG1 and NOTCH1 promoters. Collectively, our findings indicate that oestrogen engages in crosstalk with Notch signalling to regulate cell invasion in endometriosis via the activation of oestrogen receptor alpha and the enhancement of Notch activity. Notch signalling blockade may therefore be a novel therapeutic target for endometriosis.
Hengwei Liu, Zhibing Zhang, Wenqian Xiong, Ling Zhang, Yao Xiong, Na Li, Haitang He, Yu Du and Yi Liu
Endometriosis is a benign gynecological disease that shares some characteristics with malignancy like migration and invasion. It has been reported that both hypoxia-inducible factor-1α (HIF-1α) and autophagy were upregulated in ectopic endometrium of patients with ovarian endometriosis. However, the crosstalk between HIF-1α and autophagy in the pathogenesis of endometriosis remains to be clarified. Accordingly, we investigated whether autophagy was regulated by HIF-1α, as well as whether the effect of HIF-1α on cell migration and invasion is mediated through autophagy upregulation. Here, we found that ectopic endometrium from patients with endometriosis highly expressed HIF-1α and autophagy-related protein LC3. In cultured human endometrial stromal cells (HESCs), autophagy was induced by hypoxia in a time-dependent manner and autophagy activation was dependent on HIF-1α. In addition, migration and invasion ability of HESCs were enhanced by hypoxia treatment, whereas knockdown of HIF-1α attenuated this effect. Furthermore, inhibiting autophagy with specific inhibitors and Beclin1 siRNA attenuated hypoxia triggered migration and invasion of HESCs. Taken together, these results suggest that HIF-1α promotes HESCs invasion and metastasis by upregulating autophagy. Thus, autophagy may be involved in the pathogenesis of endometriosis and inhibition of autophagy might be a novel therapeutic approach to the treatment of endometriosis.
Yu Du, Zhibing Zhang, Wenqian Xiong, Na Li, Hengwei Liu, Haitang He, Qi Li, Yi Liu and Ling Zhang
Endometriosis is an estrogen-dependent benign gynecological disease that shares some common features of malignancy. Epithelial–mesenchymal transition (EMT) has been recognized as a core mechanism of endometriosis. MALAT1 is widely known as EMT promoter, while miR200 family members (miR200s) are considered as EMT inhibitors. Previous studies have reported that MALAT1 upregulation and miR200s downregulation are observed in endometriosis. MiR200c has been regarded as the strongest member of miR200s to interact with MALAT1. However, whether MALAT1/miR200c regulates EMT remains largely unclear. In this study, the roles of miR200s and MALAT1 in ectopic endometrium were investigated. Additionally, the effects of E2 on EMT and MALAT1/miR200s were examined in both EECs and Ishikawa cells. Notably, E2 could upregulate MALAT1 and downregulate miR200s expression levels and induce EMT in EECs and Ishikawa cells. PHTPP, an ERβ antagonist, could reverse the effect of E2. Overexpression of miR200c and knockdown of MALAT1 significantly inhibited E2-mediated EMT, suggesting that both miR200c and MALAT1 are involved in the E2-induced EMT process in endometriosis. In addition, a reciprocal inhibition was found between miR200s and MALAT1. Therefore, the role of MALAT1/miR200c in EMT is influenced by the presence of estrogen during endometriosis development.
Yu-Qian Wang, Aalia Batool, Su-Ren Chen and Yi-Xun Liu
Reduced contractility of the testicular peritubular myoid (PTM) cells may contribute to human male subfertility or infertility. Transcription factor GATA4 in Sertoli and Leydig cells is essential for murine spermatogenesis, but limited attention has been paid to the potential role of GATA4 in PTM cells. In primary cultures of mouse PTM cells, siRNA knockdown of GATA4 increased the contractile activity, while GATA4 overexpression significantly attenuated the contractility of PTM cells using a collagen gel contraction assay. Using RNA sequencing and qRT-PCR, we identified a set of genes that exhibited opposite expressional alternation between Gata4 siRNA vs nontargeting siRNA-treated PTM cells and Gata4 adenovirus vs control adenovirus-treated PTM cells. Notably, ion channels, smooth muscle function, cytokines and chemokines, cytoskeleton, adhesion and extracellular matrix were the top four enriched pathways, as revealed by cluster analysis. Natriuretic peptide type B (NPPB) content was significantly upregulated by GATA4 overexpression in both PTM cells and their culture supernatant. More importantly, the addition of 100 μM NPPB could abolish the promoting effect of Gata4 silencing on PTM cell contraction. Taken together, we suggest that the inhibitory action of GATA4 on PTM cell contraction is mediated at least partly by regulating genes belonging to smooth muscle contraction pathway (e.g. Nppb).
Yan Cao, Ming Shen, Yi Jiang, Shao-chen Sun and Honglin Liu
Oxidative stress-induced granulosa cell (GCs) injury is believed to be a common trigger for follicular atresia. Emerging evidence indicates that excessive autophagy occurs in mammalian cells with oxidative damage. N-acetyl-5-methoxytrypamine (melatonin) has been shown to prevent GCs from oxidative injury, although the exact mechanism remains to be elucidated. Here, we first demonstrated that the suppression of autophagy through the JNK/BCL-2/BECN1 signaling is engaged in melatonin-mediated GCs protection against oxidative damage. Melatonin inhibited the loss of GCs viability, formation of GFP-MAP1LC3B puncta, accumulation of MAP1LC3B-II blots, degradation of SQSTM1 and the expression of BECN1, which was correlated with impaired activation of JNK during oxidative stress. On the other hand, blocking of autophagy and/or JNK also reduced the level of H2O2-induced GCs death, but failed to further restore GCs viability in the presence of melatonin. Particularly, the suppression of autophagy provided no additional protective effects when GCs were pretreated with JNK inhibitor and/or melatonin. Importantly, we found that the enhanced interaction between BCL-2 and BECN1 might be a responsive mechanism for autophagy suppression via the melatonin/JNK pathway. Moreover, blocking the downstream antioxidant system of melatonin using specific inhibitors further confirmed a direct role of melatonin/JNK/autophagy axis in preserving GCs survival without scavenging reactive oxygen species (ROS). Taken together, our findings uncover a novel function of melatonin in preventing GCs from oxidative damage by targeting JNK-mediated autophagy, which might contribute to develop therapeutic strategies for patients with ovulation failure-related disorders.
Huijuan Zhang, Guishuan Wang, Lin Liu, Xiaolin Liang, Yu Lin, Yi-Yu Lin, Chu-Fang Chou, Mo-Fang Liu, Hefeng Huang and Fei Sun
The chromatoid body (CB) is a specific cloud-like structure in the cytoplasm of haploid spermatids. Recent findings indicate that CB is identified as a male germ cell-specific RNA storage and processing center, but its function has remained elusive for decades. In somatic cells, KH-type splicing regulatory protein (KSRP) is involved in regulating gene expression and maturation of select microRNAs (miRNAs). However, the function of KSRP in spermatogenesis remains unclear. In this study, we showed that KSRP partly localizes in CB, as a component of CB. KSRP interacts with proteins (mouse VASA homolog (MVH), polyadenylate-binding protein 1 (PABP1) and polyadenylate-binding protein 2 (PABP2)), mRNAs (Tnp2 and Odf1) and microRNAs (microRNA-182) in mouse CB. Moreover, KSRP may regulate the integrity of CB via DDX5-miRNA-182 pathway. In addition, we found abnormal expressions of CB component in testes of Ksrp-knockout mice and of patients with hypospermatogenesis. Thus, our results provide mechanistic insight into the role of KSRP in spermatogenesis.
Shiyang Zhang, Yunhao Liu, Qian Huang, Shuo Yuan, Hong Liu, Lin Shi, Yi Tian Yap, Wei Li, Jingkai Zhen, Ling Zhang, Rex A Hess and Zhibing Zhang
Intraflagellar transport (IFT) is a conserved mechanism essential for the assembly and maintenance of most eukaryotic cilia and flagella. IFT172 is a component of the IFT complex. Global disruption of mouse Ift172 gene caused typical phenotypes of ciliopathy. Mouse Ift172 gene appears to translate two major proteins; the full-length protein is highly expressed in the tissues enriched in cilia, and the smaller 130 kDa one is only abundant in the testis. In male germ cells, IFT172 is highly expressed in the manchette of elongating spermatids. A germ cell-specific Ift172 mutant mice were generated, and the mutant mice did not show gross abnormalities. There was no difference in testis/body weight between the control and mutant mice, but more than half of the adult homozygous mutant males were infertile and associated with abnormally developed germ cells in the spermiogenesis phase. The cauda epididymides in mutant mice contained less developed sperm that showed significantly reduced motility, and these sperm had multiple defects in ultrastructure and bent tails. In the mutant mice, testicular expression levels of some IFT components, including IFT20, IFT27, IFT74, IFT81 and IFT140, and a central apparatus protein SPAG16L were not changed. However, expression levels of ODF2, a component of the outer dense fiber, and AKAP4, a component of fibrous sheath, and two IFT components IFT25 and IFT57 were dramatically reduced. Our findings demonstrate that IFT172 is essential for normal male fertility and spermiogenesis in mice, probably by modulating specific IFT proteins and transporting/assembling unique accessory structural proteins into spermatozoa.
Kien C Luu, Gui Ying Nie, Anne Hampton, Guo-Qiang Fu, Yi-Xun Liu and Lois A Salamonsen
The endometrium is hostile to embryo implantation except during the ‘window of receptivity’. A change in endometrial gene expression is required for the development of receptivity. Calbindin-d9k (CaBP-d9k) and calbindin-d28k (CaBP-d28k) are proteins possessing EF-hand motifs which have high affinity for Ca2+ ions. Previously, it has been demonstrated that, in mouse endometrium, the expression of both calbindins is highly regulated during implantation and that both proteins play critical but functionally redundant roles at implantation. This study was the first to determine the expression of these two calbindins in the human and rhesus monkey endometrium. Initial RT-PCR analysis demonstrated that CaBP-d28k but not CaBP-d9k mRNA expression is detectable in the endometrium of both species. Western blot analysis confirmed the presence of immuno-reactive CaBP-d28k protein in the primate endometrium. Furthermore, the endometrial expression pattern of CaBP-d28k mRNA and protein was examined by Northern blot analysis and immunohistochemistry respectively in both species across the menstrual cycle and during early pregnancy. Semi-quantitative statistical analysis of the immunohistochemistry results revealed that, in the human, CaBP-d28k protein expression was maximal in luminal and glandular epithelium during the mid-secretory phase, coinciding with the time when the endometrium is receptive to embryo implantation. Expression in rhesus monkey showed a similar trend. These results suggest that, in the primate endometrium, only CaBP-d28k is expressed and that the specific regulation of this calbindin is potentially important for the establishment of uterine receptivity.