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Qingling Yang, Shanjun Dai, Xiaoyan Luo, Jing Zhu, Fangyuan Li, Jinhao Liu, Guidong Yao, and Yingpu Sun

The quality of postovulatory metaphase II oocytes undergoes a time-dependent deterioration as a result of the aging process. Melatonin is considered to be an anti-aging agent. However, the underlying mechanisms of how melatonin improves the quality of postovulatory aged oocytes remain largely unclear. In this study, by using mouse model, we found that there were elevated reactive oxygen species levels and impaired mitochondrial function demonstrated by reduced mitochondrial membrane potential and increased mitochondrial aggregation in oocytes aged 24 h, accompanied by an increased number of meiotic errors, unregulated autophagy-related proteins and early apoptosis, which led to decreased oocyte quality and disrupted developmental competence. However, all of these events can be largely prevented by supplementing the oocyte culture medium with 10−3 M melatonin. Additionally, we found that the expression of sirtuin family members (SIRT1, 2 and 3) was dramatically reduced in aged oocytes. In addition, in vitro supplementation with melatonin significantly upregulated the expression of SIRT1 and antioxidant enzyme MnSOD, but this action was not observed for SIRT2 and SIRT3. Furthermore, the protective effect of melatonin on the delay of oocyte aging vanished when the SIRT1 inhibitor EX527 was used to simultaneously treat the oocytes with melatonin. Consistent with this finding, we found that the postovulatory oocyte aging process was markedly attenuated when the oocytes were treated with the SIRT1 activator SRT1720. In conclusion, our data strongly indicate that melatonin delays postovulatory mouse oocyte aging via a SIRT1–MnSOD-dependent pathway, which may provide a molecular mechanism support for the further application of melatonin in the assisted reproductive technology field.

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Liang Yu, Rong Hu, Claretta Sullivan, R James Swanson, Sergio Oehninger, Ying-Pu Sun, and Silvina Bocca

This study investigated the role of milk fat globule-epidermal growth factor-factor 8 (MFGE8) in TGF-β-induced epithelial–mesenchymal transition (EMT) of endometrial epithelial cells. These were in vitro studies using human endometrial epithelial cells and mouse blastocysts. We investigated the ability of TGF-β to induce EMT in endometrial epithelial cells (HEC-1A) by assessment of cytological phenotype (by light and atomic force microscopy), changes in expression of the markers of cell adhesion/differentiation E- and N-cadherin, and of the transcription factor Snail (by immunofluorescence and immunoblotting), and competence to support embryo attachment in a mouse blastocyst outgrowth assay. We also studied the effects of E-cadherin expression in cells transfected by retroviral shRNA vectors specifically silencing MFGE8. Results demonstrated that TGF-β induced EMT as demonstrated by phenotypic cell changes, by a switch of cadherin expression as well as by upregulation of the expression of the mesenchymal markers Snail and Vimentin. Upon MFGE8 knockdown, these processes were interfered with, suggesting that MFGE8 and TGF-β together may participate in regulation of EMT. This study demonstrated for the first time that endometrial MFGE8 modulates TGF-β-induced EMT in human endometrium cells.

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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.

Free access

Lanlan Fang, Zhen Wang, Ze Wu, Yang Yan, Yibo Gao, Yuxi Li, Jung-Chien Cheng, and Ying-Pu Sun

Matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) play a pivotal role in the regulation of cell invasion. Placental trophoblast cell invasion is a precisely regulated event. Dysregulation of MMPs has been linked to various placental diseases. Growth differentiation factor-8 (GDF-8), also known as myostatin, is a member of the transforming growth factor-beta (TGF-β) superfamily. GDF-8 and its putative receptors are expressed in human extravillous cytotrophoblast cells (EVTs). Although the pro-invasive effect of GDF-8 in human EVT cells has been recently reported, the underlying molecular mechanism remains largely unknown. In this study, we investigate the effects of GDF-8 on the expression of the two most important MMPs, MMP2 and MMP9, in the HTR-8/SVneo human EVT cell line. Our results show that GDF-8 significantly upregulates the expression of MMP2. The expression of MMP9 is not affected by GDF-8. Using a siRNA-mediated knockdown approach, we reveal that the stimulatory effect of GDF-8 on MMP2 expression is mediated by the ALK5-SMAD2/3 signaling pathway. Additionally, the knockdown of MMP2 attenuates the GDF-8-induced cell invasiveness. These findings deepen our understanding of the biological roles of GDF-8 in the regulation of human trophoblast cell invasion.

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Hui Li, Huan Wang, Jianmin Xu, Xinxin Zeng, Yingpu Sun, and Qingling Yang

In brief

Oocyte quality and its NAD+ level decrease with time during in vitro culture. This study shows that nicotinamide riboside (NR) supplementation improves early embryonic development potential in post-ovulatory oocytes by decreasing the reactive oxygen species (ROS) levels and reducing DNA damage and apoptosis which could potentially increase the success rate of assisted reproductive technology (ART).


The quality of post-ovulatory oocytes deteriorates over time, impacting the outcome of early embryonic development during human ART. We and other groups have found that NAD+, a prominent redox cofactor and enzyme substrate, decreases in both aging ovaries and oocytes. In this study, we found that the NAD+ levels decreased in the post-ovulatory mouse oocytes during in vitro culture and this decrease was partly prevented by NR supplementation. NR treatmenty restored MII oocyte quality and enhanced the early embryonic development potential of post-ovulatory oocytes via alleviating mitochondrial dysfunction and maintaining normal spindle/chromosome structure. Also, treatment with NR decreased ROS levels and reduced DNA damage and apoptosis in post-ovulatory oocytes. Taken together, our findings indicated that NR supplementation increases the oocyte quality and early embryonic development potential in post-ovulatory oocytes which could potentially increase the success rate of ART.