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Ying Wang, Baosheng Chen, Mark S Longtine, and D Michael Nelson

Punicalagin is a prominent polyphenol in pomegranate juice that protects cultured syncytiotrophoblasts from stress-induced apoptosis. Here, we test the hypothesis that punicalagin has this effect by inhibiting the mTOR kinase pathway to enhance autophagic turnover and limit apoptosis in cultured primary human syncytiotrophoblasts. In syncytiotrophoblasts, starvation, rapamycin, or punicalagin all decreased the expression of phosphorylated ribosomal protein S6, a downstream target of the mTOR kinase, and of the autophagy markers, LC3-II and p62. In contrast, in the presence of bafilomycin, an inhibitor of late stages of autophagy and degradation in the autophagolysosome, syncytiotrophoblasts exposed to starvation, rapamycin, or punicalagin all showed increased levels of LC3-II and p62. The number of LC3-II punctae also increased in punicalagin-treated syncytiotrophoblasts exposed to chloroquine, another inhibitor of autophagic degradation, and punicalagin increased the number of lysosomes. The apoptosis-reducing effect of punicalagin was attenuated by inhibition of autophagy using bafilomycin or knockdown of the autophagy related gene, ATG16L1. Collectively, these data support the hypothesis that punicalagin modulates the crosstalk between autophagy and apoptosis to promote survival in cultured syncytiotrophoblasts.

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Xiaokui Yang, Ying Zhou, Sha Peng, Liang Wu, Hai-Yan Lin, Shuyu Wang, and Hongmei Wang

Recent studies implicate the regulatory function of microRNAs (miRNAs) in oocyte maturation and ovarian follicular development. Differentially expressed miRNAs are found in the plasma of premature ovarian failure (POF) patients and normal cycling women. In this study, miRNA-regulated signaling pathways and related genes were described using Gene Ontology (GO) analysis and Kyoto Encyclopedia of Genes and Genomes pathway analysis. The effect of mir-23a on granulosa cell apoptosis was also studied by examining the protein expression of X-linked inhibitor of apoptosis protein (XIAP) and caspase-3, followed by subsequent counting of apoptotic cells after Hoechst 33258 staining. Both GO analysis and pathway analysis suggested that many signaling pathways, including the AKT signaling pathway, steroid hormone receptor signaling pathways, and others, were regulated by this group of differentially expressed miRNAs. A decrease in XIAP expression (mRNA and protein level) and caspase-3 protein levels and an increase in cleaved caspase-3 protein were observed in human ovarian granulosa cells transfected with pre-mir-23a, along with an increased occurrence of apoptosis. In conclusion, differentially expressed miRNAs in the plasma of POF patients may have regulatory effects on proliferation and apoptosis of granulosa cells by affecting different signaling pathways. Mir-23a may play important roles in regulating apoptosis via decreasing XIAP expression in human ovarian granulosa cells.

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Chulin Yu, Meiling Li, Yue Wang, Ying Liu, Chengzhi Yan, Jirong Pan, Jiali Liu, and Sheng Cui

The corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH) signaling system is involved in numbers of stress-related physiological and pathological responses, including its inhibiting effects on estradiol (E2) synthesis and follicular development in the ovary. In addition, there are reports that microRNAs (miRNAs) can control the function of animal reproductive system. The aim of present study was to investigate the functions of miR-375 and the relationship between miR-375 and CRH signaling molecules in the porcine ovary. First, our common PCR results show that miR-375 and the CRH receptor 1 (CRHR1) are expressed in porcine ovary, whereas CRH receptor 2 (CRHR2) is not detected. We further have located the cell types of miR-375 and CRHR1 by in situ hybridization (ISH), and the results show that miR-375 is located only in the granulosa cells, whereas CRHR1 is positive in all of granulosa cells and oocytes, inferring that miR-375 and CRHR1 are co-localized in granulosa cells. Second, we show that overexpression of miR-375 in cultured granulosa cells suppresses the E2 production, whereas miR-375 knockdown demonstrates the opposite result. Besides, our in vitro results demonstrate that miR-375 mediates the signaling pathway of CRH inhibiting E2 synthesis. Finally, our data show that the action of miR-375 is accomplished by directly binding to the 3′UTR of specificity protein1 (SP1) mRNA to decrease the SP1 protein level. Thus, we conclude that miR-375 is a key factor in regulating E2 synthesis by mediating the CRH signaling pathway.

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Fang-Ju Wu, Ying-Wen Wang, and Ching-Wei Luo

Bone morphogenetic proteins (BMPs) are known to play an indispensable role in preventing the precocious luteinization of granulosa cells within growing ovarian follicles. In this study, we found that the transcripts of BMP8 genes are enriched in the ovaries of humans and rodents. When analyzing transcriptomic datasets obtained from human mature granulosa cells, we further found that the BMP8 transcripts not only show the highest abundance among the searchable BMP-related ligands but also decrease significantly in women of advanced age or women with polycystic ovarian syndrome. The correlation between the BMP8 levels in granulosa cells and the decline in ovarian function in these subjects suggests that BMP8 protein may be involved in the regulation of granulosa cell function(s). Using a rat model, we demonstrated that human BMP8A protein activates the SMAD1/5/8 and the SMAD2/3 pathways simultaneously in both immature and mature granulosa cells. Furthermore, the expression of potential type I and type II receptors used by BMP8 in rat granulosa cells was characterized. We found that BMP8A treatment can significantly inhibit gonadotropin-induced progesterone production and steroidogenesis-related gene expression in granulosa cells. Pathway dissection using receptor inhibitors further revealed that such inhibitory effects occur specifically through the BMP8-activated SMAD1/5/8, but not SMAD2/3, pathway. Taken together, considering its abundance and possible functions in granulosa cells, we suggest that BMP8 may act as a novel luteinization inhibitor in growing follicles.

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Xiu Shi, Wei Xu, Hui-Hua Dai, Ying Sun, and Xiu-Li Wang

To compare the expression patterns of steroid receptor coactivators (SRCs) and steroid-induced stromal cell-derived factor 1 (CXCL12 (SDF1)) in normal and ectopic endometrium and to explore the roles of NCOA1 (SRC1) and NCOA2 (SRC2) in the steroid-induced CXCL12 expression in normal and ectopic endometrial stromal cells (ESCs). The NCOA1, NCOA2, NCOA3 (SRC3), and CXCL12 (SDF1)α mRNA levels in normal and ectopic endometrium were analyzed by quantitative real-time PCR. Steroid-induced CXCL12 expression was detected by the ELISA method and the chemotactic activity of conditioned supernatant to monocyte was assessed by the Boyden chamber method before and after the silencing of NCOA1 or NCOA2 with siRNA in normal and ectopic ESCs. The expression of NCOA1 and CXCL12 in ectopic endometrium was significantly greater than that in normal endometrium in the secretory phase. Progesterone (P4) was able to significantly inhibit estradiol (E2)-stimulated CXCL12 expression in normal and ectopic ESCs. The inhibitory rate of P4 in ectopic ESCs at 72 and 96 h was significantly lower than that in normal ESCs. Silencing of NCOA1 but not NCOA2 significantly reduced the E2-induced CXCL12 expression in normal and ectopic ESCs. The ability of P4 to inhibit E2-induced CXCL12 expression and monocyte chemotaxis in normal and ectopic ESCs was significantly attenuated when NCOA2 was silenced. NCOA1 plays a necessary role in E2-induced CXCL12 expression and NCOA2 is required for P4 to inhibit the E2-induced CXCL12 production in normal and ectopic endometrium.

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Shijia Ying, Ziyu Wang, Changlong Wang, Haitao Nie, Dongyang He, Ruoxin Jia, Yongcong Wu, Yongjie Wan, Zhengrong Zhou, Yibo Yan, Yanli Zhang, and Feng Wang

This study investigated the effects of short-term food restriction or supplementation on folliculogenesis and plasma and intrafollicular metabolite and hormone concentrations. Ewes were randomly assigned to three groups: the control group received a maintenance diet (M) while the supplemented group and restricted group received 1.5×M and 0.5×M respectively on days 6–12 of their estrous cycle. Estrus was synchronized by intravaginal progestogen sponges for 12 days. On days 7–12, blood samples were taken. After slaughter, the ovarian follicles were classified and the follicular fluid was collected. Compared with restriction, supplementation shortened the estrous cycle length, decreased the number of follicles 2.5–3.5 mm and follicular fluid estradiol (E2) concentration, increased the number of follicles >3.5 mm and plasma glucose, insulin and glucagon concentrations, and augmented the volume of follicles >2.5 mm. Restricted ewes had higher intrafollicular insulin concentration, but it was similar to that of supplemented ewes. Compared with follicles ≤2.5 mm, the intrafollicular glucose and E2 concentrations were increased and the testosterone, insulin, and glucagon concentrations and lactate dehydrogenase (LDH) activity were decreased in follicles >2.5 mm. Only in restricted ewes were intrafollicular LDH and testosterone concentrations in follicles ≤2.5 mm not different from those in follicles ≤2.5 mm. In conclusion, the mechanism by which short-term dietary restriction inhibits folliculogenesis may involve responses to intrafollicular increased E2, testosterone, and LDH levels in late-stage follicles. This may not be due to the variation of intrafollicular insulin level but rather due to decreased circulating levels of glucose, insulin, and glucagon.

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Jian-Jun Chang, Jing-Pian Peng, Ying Yang, Jing-Ling Wang, and Li Xu

Partial cDNA sequence coding for Microtus brandti radde (Brandt’s vole) testes-specific lactate dehydrogenase (brLDH-C4) was amplified by reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR). By inserting the product into the eukaryotic expression vector pCR3.1, pCR3.1-brLDH-C4′ was obtained as the prototype of contraceptive DNA vaccine. Immunization with pCR3.1-brLDH-C4′ in BALB/c mice generated antibodies specific to purified brLDH-C4′ and native mouse LDH-C4 protein. The birth rate of the pCR3.1-brLDH-C4′ immunized mice was found to be decreased significantly (80% lower than that of those immunized with pCR3.1). Functions of the elicited antibodies in sera from pCR3.1-brLDH-C4′ inoculated mice were further explored. The results indicated that the antibodies from the mice injected with pCR3.1-brLDH-C4′ could cause the agglutination of normal sperm suspension, while the ovarian structure and the development of ovarian follicles of these mice were not impaired, which gives a possible explanation for the immunocontraceptive effects of the pCR3.1-brLDH-C4′ DNA vaccine.

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Xing Su, Yi Hu, Ying Li, Jing-Li Cao, Xue-Qin Wang, Xu Ma, and Hong-Fei Xia

Although the relationship between polymorphisms in microRNAs (miRNAs) and recurrent pregnancy loss (RPL) has been studied, there is very little data available in the literature. In the present study, we scanned 55 potentially functional polymorphisms in the miRNA coding region in Chinese women with unexplained RPL (URPL; no. 2011-10). The rs6505162 C>A in the MIR423 coding region was found to be significantly associated with the occurrence of human URPL. The rare A allele contributed to an increase in the expression of mature MIR423. C to A substitution in the polymorphism rs6505162 in pre-MIR423 repressed cell proliferation and migratory capacity. Further investigations showed that MIR 423 could inversely regulate the expression of proliferation-associated 2 group 4 (PA2G4) by binding the 3′-UTR of PA2G4. Dual-luciferase assay indicated that the A allele in the polymorphism rs6505162 could more effectively suppress the expression of PA2G4 than the C allele could. Collectively, the present data suggest that rs6505162 C>A in pre-MIR423 may contribute to the genetic predisposition to RPL by disrupting the production of mature MIR42 3 and its target gene, which consequently interferes with MIR423 functioning.

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Lanlan Fang, Sijia Wang, Yiran Li, Yiping Yu, Yuxi Li, Yang Yan, Jung-Chien Cheng, and Ying-Pu Sun

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is the most common cause of female infertility. Growth differentiation factor-8 (GDF-8) is expressed in the ovary and can be detected in human follicular fluid which provides an important microenvironment for maintaining physiological functions of the ovarian follicle. To date, the relationship between GDF-8 levels in follicular fluid and the risk of PCOS is completely unknown. In the present study, we show that during the process of the controlled ovarian hyperstimulation (COH), serum GDF-8 levels are higher on the day of gonadotropin administration and 14 days after embryo transfer in in vitro fertilization (IVF) patients with PCOS than they are in IVF patients without PCOS. Importantly, GDF-8 levels in follicular fluid at oocyte retrieval are also higher in PCOS patients than in non-PCOS patients. Treatment of primary human granulosa-lutein (hGL) cells with GDF-8 downregulates StAR protein expression and the inhibition is more pronounced in hGL cells from PCOS patients than it is in cells from non-PCOS patients. Importantly, high GDF-8 levels and low progesterone (P4) levels were associated with poor pregnancy outcomes in PCOS patients. Our results provide the first evidence that aberrant expression of GDF-8 in the follicular fluid of PCOS patients results in abnormal P4 expression, which leads to poor pregnancy outcomes.

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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.