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Chen Xu, Xingji You, Weina Liu, Qianqian Sun, Xiaoying Ding, Ying Huang, and Xin Ni

Prostaglandin F2α (PGF2A) has multiple roles in the birth process in addition to its vital contractile role. Our previous study has demonstrated that PGF2A can modulate uterine activation proteins (UAPs) in cultured pregnant human myometrial smooth muscle cells (HMSMCs). The objective of this study was to define the signalling pathways responsible for PGF2A modulation of UAPs in myometrium. It was found that PGF2A stimulated the expression of (GJA1) connexin 43 (CX43), prostaglandin endoperoxide synthase 2 (PTGS2) and oxytocin receptor (OTR) in cultured HMSMCs. The inhibitors of phospholipase C (PLC) and protein kinase C (PKC) blocked PGF2A-stimulated expression of CX43. The inhibitors of ERK, P38 and NFκB also blocked the effect of PGF2A on CX43 expression, whereas PI3K and calcineurin/nuclear factor of activated T-cells (NFAT) pathway inhibitors did not reverse the effect of PGF2A on CX43. For PTGS2 and OTR, PLC, PI3K, P38 and calcineurin/NFAT signalling pathways were involved in PGF2A action, whereas PKC and NFκB signalling were not involved. In addition, PGF2A activated NFAT, PI3K, NFκB, ERK and P38 signalling pathways. Our data suggest that PGF2A stimulates CX43, PTGS2 and OTR through divergent signalling pathways.

Free access

Xiaolin Chen, Lili Huang, Hwee Y Tan, Hongzhuo Li, Ying Wan, Michael Cowley, Johannes D Veldhuis, and Chen Chen

Deletion of the melanocortin-4-receptor (Mc4r) gene in mice causes hyperphagia, followed by hyperinsulinemia, obesity and progressive infertility. Evidence shows that the number of developed corpora lutea is reduced in obese MC4R-knockout (MC4R KO) female mice, but the mechanism is unclear. The effect of hyperphagia and obesity by MC4R KO on pulsatile luteinizing hormone (LH) secretion and ovulation remains unknown. In MC4R KO mice and wild-type littermates (WT LM) during the diestrus period throughout different ages, we examined and monitored their metabolic status, pulsatile LH profiles, follicular morphology and the number of corpora lutea. MC4R KO mice were hyperphagic, obese, hyperglycemic, hyperinsulinemic and demonstrated insulin resistance and hepatic steatosis. Irregular estrous cycles and significant changes in the LH secretion profiles were observed in sexually matured 16- to 28-week MC4R KO mice, without any difference in testosterone levels. In addition, MC4R KO mice at 16 weeks of age had significantly fewer corpora lutea than same age WT LM mice. The ovary examinations of MC4R KO mice at 28 weeks of age showed predominantly antral and preovulatory follicles with no corpora lutea. These findings were consistent with the decrease in total, pulsatile, mass and basal LH releases in MC4R KO mice. The characteristics of hormone profiles in obese MC4R KO mice indicate that MC4R plays an important role in regulating LH release, ovulation and reproductive ability probably via hyperphagia-induced obesity. Further study of correlation between metabolic and reproductive regulatory hormones is warranted to dissect the pathological mechanism underlying obesity-induced infertility.

Free Chinese abstract: A Chinese translation of this abstract is freely available at

Free access

Xiao-yu Yang, Hua Li, Qing-wen Ma, Jing-bin Yan, Jiang-guo Zhao, Hua-wei Li, Hai-qing Shen, Hai-feng Liu, Ying Huang, Shu-Zhen Huang, Yi-Tao Zeng, and Fanyi Zeng

Somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT) has been used for the cloning of various mammals. However, the rates of successful, healthy birth are generally poor. To improve cloning efficiency, we report the utilization of an ‘autologous SCNT’ cloning technique in which the somatic nucleus of a female bovine donor is transferred to its own enucleated oocyte recovered by ovum pick up, in contrast to the routine ‘allogeneic SCNT’ procedure using oocytes from unrelated females. Our results showed that embryos derived from autologous SCNThave significantly higher developmental competence than those derived from allogeneic SCNT, especiallyat the eight-cell (60 vs 44%), morula (45 vs 36%), and blastocyst (38 vs 23%) stages. The pregnancy and birth rates were also higher for the autologous (39 and 23%), compared to the allogeneic (22 and 6%) SCNT groups. Genome-wide histone3-lysine9 methylation profiles reveal that autologous SCNTembryos have less epigenetic defects than the allogeneic SCNTembryos. This study indicates that autologous SCNT can improve the efficiency of bovine cloning with less reprogramming deficiency.

Free access

Ji-Wen Yang, Zi-Li Lei, Yi-Liang Miao, Jun-Cheng Huang, Li-Hong Shi, Ying-Chun OuYang, Qing-Yuan Sun, and Da-Yuan Chen

This study was carried out to investigate the contributions of chromosomes to spindle assembly in mouse oocytes. We generated two groups of cytoplasts (holo- and hemi-cytoplasts) by enucleation of germinal vesicle (GV), metaphase I (MI), and metaphase II (MII) oocytes using micromanipulation technology. After in vitro culture for 18 h, spindles with different shapes (bi-, mono-, or multipolar) formed in most of these cytoplasts except in hemi-GV cytoplasts. Two or more spindles were observed in most of holo-GV, holo-MI, and holo-MII cytoplasts (76.1, 77.0, and 83.7% respectively). However, the proportions of hemi-MI and hemi-MII cytoplasts with multiple sets of spindles decreased to 17.6 and 20.7% respectively. A single bipolar spindle was observed in each sham-operated oocyte generated by removing different volumes of cytoplasm from the oocytes and keeping nuclei intact. Localization of γ-tubulin showed that microtubule organizing centers (MTOCs) were dispersed at each pole of the multiple sets of spindles formed in holo-cytoplasts. However, most of the MTOCs aggregated at the two poles of the bipolar spindle in sham-operated oocytes. Our results demonstrate that chromosomes are not essential for initiating spindle assembly but for directing distinct MTOCs to aggregate to form a bipolar spindle. Some factors of undetermined nature may pre-exist in an inactive form in GV-stage ooplasm, serving as initiators of spindle assembly upon their activation. Moreover, GV materials released into the cytoplasm may facilitate spindle assembly in normal meiotic maturation.

Open access

Ying Huang, Jiang-Man Gao, Chun-Mei Zhang, Hong-Cui Zhao, Yue Zhao, Rong Li, Yang Yu, and Jie Qiao

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a common reproductive disorder that has many characteristic features including hyperandrogenemia, insulin resistance and obesity, which may have significant implications for pregnancy outcomes and long-term health of women. Daughters born to PCOS mothers constitute a high-risk group for metabolic and reproductive derangements, but no report has described potential growth and metabolic risk factors for such female offspring. Hence, we used a mouse model of dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA)-induced PCOS to study the mechanisms underlying the pathology of PCOS by investigating the growth, developmental characteristics, metabolic indexes and expression profiles of key genes of offspring born to the models. We found that the average litter size was significantly smaller in the DHEA group, and female offspring had sustained higher body weight, increased body fat and triglyceride content in serum and liver; they also exhibited decreased energy expenditure, oxygen consumption and impaired glucose tolerance. Genes related to glucolipid metabolism such as Pparγ, Acot1/2, Fgf21, Pdk4 and Inhbb were upregulated in the liver of the offspring in DHEA group compared with those in controls, whereas Cyp17a1 expression was significantly decreased. However, the expression of these genes was not detected in male offspring. Our results show that female offspring in DHEA group exhibit perturbed growth and glucolipid metabolism that were not observed in male offspring.

Free access

Ma Tian-Zhong, Chen Bi, Zhang Ying, Jing Xia, Peng Cai-Ling, Zhang Yun-Shan, Huang Mei-Wen, and Niu Yan-Ru


Emx2 deletion impairs the growth and maintenance of the genital ridge. However, its role in subsequent germ cell differentiation during embryonic stages is unknown. Using a tamoxifen-inducible Cre-loxP mouse model (Emx2 flox/flox, Cre-ER TM, hereafter called as Emx2 knockdown), we showed that germ cell differentiation was impaired in Emx2-knockdown testes. Representative characteristics of male germ cell differentiation, including a reduced ability to form embryonic germ (EG) cell colonies in vitro, down-regulation of pluripotency markers and G1/G0 arrest, did not occur in Emx2-knockdown testes. Furthermore, FGF9 and NODAL signalling occurred at abnormally high levels in Emx2-knockdown testes. Both blocking FGF9 signalling with SU5402 and inhibiting NODAL signalling with SB431542 allowed germ cells from Emx2-knockdown testes to differentiate in vitro. Therefore, EMX2 in somatic cells is required to trigger germ cell differentiation in XY foetuses, posterior to its previously reported role in the growth and maintenance of the genital ridge.

Free access

Yan Wang, Hualin Huang, Minghua Zeng, Ru-Ping Quan, Jun-Ting Yang, Dan Guo, Ying Sun, Hongwen Deng, and Hongmei Xiao

In this study, we investigated a gene-edited (Zp2 MT/MT) rat model of infertility caused by the failure to express the zona pellucida glycoprotein 2 (ZP2) due to the significant reduction of mRNA amount. We examined the defects in the zona pellucida (ZP) caused by ZP2 nullification and the influence of these defects on aspects of oocyte development, including apoptosis and fertilization ability. To investigate the cause of the influence to the oocytes’ development, we evaluated the morphology of follicular transzonal projections (TZPs), known as ‘bridges’, which mediate the bidirectional signaling between the oocyte and surrounding granulosa cells and the level of reactive oxygen species (ROS) in ovulated eggs. Our results showed that two types of ZP defects were generated in the Zp2 MT/MT rat,that is, ZP intact but thinned and ZP cracked (or even absent). The fertilization rate of the ovulated eggs reduced in both types, while increased oocyte apoptosis was observed only in the latter type. Moreover, the increased oocyte apoptosis rate correlated closely with the reduction in follicular TZPs and increased ROS levels in ovulated egg. In conclusion, nullification of rat ZP2 destroyed the integrity of the ZP, impaired the bidirectional signaling between the oocyte and surrounding granulosa cells. Therefore, the resulting infertility likely occurs via elevation of oxidative stress and oocytes apoptosis.

Free access

Li-Ying Yan, Jun-Cheng Huang, Zi-Yu Zhu, Zi-Li Lei, Li-Hong Shi, Chang-Long Nan, Zhen-Jun Zhao, Ying-Chun OuYang, Xiang-Fen Song, Qing-Yuan Sun, and Da-Yuan Chen

The assembly of microtubules and the distribution of NuMA were analyzed in rabbit oocytes and early cloned embryos. α-Tubulin was localized around the periphery of the germinal vesicle (GV). After germinal vesicle breakdown (GVBD), multi-arrayed microtubules were found tightly associated with the condensed chromosomes and assembled into spindles. After the enucleated oocyte was fused with a fibroblast, microtubules were observed around the introduced nucleus in most reconstructed embryos and formed a transient spindle 2–4 h post-fusion (hpf). A mass of microtubules surrounded the swollen pseudo-pronucleus 5 hpf and a normal spindle was formed 13 hpf in cloned embryos. NuMAwas detected in the nucleus in germinal vesicle-stage oocytes, and it was concentrated at the spindle poles in both meiotic and mitotic metaphase. In both donor cell nucleus and enucleated oocyte cytoplasm, NuMA was not detected, while NuMA reappeared in pseudo-pronucleus as reconstructed embryo development proceeded. However, no evident NuMA staining was observed in the poles of transient spindle and first mitotic spindle in nuclear transfer eggs. These results indicate that NuMA localization and its spindle pole tethering function are different during rabbit oocyte meiosis and cloned embryo mitosis.

Free access

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.