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Li-Juan Xiao, Jin-Xiang Yuan, Xin-Xin Song, Yin-Chuan Li, Zhao-Yuan Hu, and Yi-Xun Liu

Stanniocalcin-1 (STC-1) is a recently discovered polypeptide hormone, while stanniocalcin-2 (STC-2) is a subsequently identified homologue of stanniocalcin-1. Although previous studies have shown that both STC-1 and -2 are involved in various physiological processes, such as ion transport, reproduction and development, their expression in the uterus and roles in implantation and early pregnancy are unclear. Here we have investigated the expression and regulation of both STC-1 and STC-2 in rat uterus during early pregnancy under various physiological conditions. We show that only basal levels of STC-1 and STC-2 mRNA were detected in the uterus from day one (D1) to day five (D5) of pregnancy. STC-2 immunostaining was gradually increased in the glandular epithelium from day two (D2), with a peak occurring on D5. High levels of both STC-1 and STC-2 mRNA were observed in the stoma cells at the implantation site on day six (D6) of pregnancy, whereas their immunostaining signals were also significant in the luminal epithelium. Basal levels of both STC-1 and STC-2 mRNA and STC-1 immunostaining were detected in the uterus with delayed implantation. After the delayed implantation was terminated by estrogen treatment, both STC-1 and STC-2 mRNA signals were significantly induced in the stroma underlying the luminal epithelium at the implantation site, and STC-2 immunostaining was also observed in the luminal epithelium surrounding the implanting blastocyst. Embryo transfer experiments further confirmed that STC-1 and STC-2 expression at the implantation sites was induced by the implanting blastocyst. Both STC-1 mRNA and immunostaining were seen in the decidualized cells from day seven (D7) to day nine (D9) of pregnancy. STC-2 mRNA was also found in the whole decidua from D7 to D9 of pregnancy; STC-2 protein, however, was strictly localized to the primary deciduas on D7 and D8, with a weak expression in the whole deciduas on D9. Consistent with the normal pregnancy process, strong STC-1 and STC-2 mRNA signals were detected in the decidualized cells under artificial decidualization, whereas only basal levels of STC-1 mRNA and immunostaining were observed in the control horn. These data suggest, for the first time, that STC-1 together with STC-2 may play important roles in the processes of implantation and decidualization in the rat.

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Li-Juan Xiao, Jin-Xiang Yuan, Yin-Chuan Li, Rui Wang, Zhao-Yuan Hu, and Yi-Xun Liu

The extracellular Ca2+-sensing receptor (CaR) is a member of the superfamily of G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs). It is an important mediator of a wide range of Ca2+-dependent physiological responses in various tissues. In reproductive tissues it has been reported to play a significant role in promoting or maintaining placentation. Meanwhile, another Ca2+ regulated gene stanniocalcin-1 (STC-1) has been documented to be involved in decidualization and uterine remodelling. The phenomenon that CaR mediates STC-1’s transcription responding to extracellular calcium in fish urges us to suppose that CaR, like STC-1, may also play a role in implantation and decidualization. To resolve this conjecture, we have examined the expression and hormonal regulation of the CaR gene in rat uterus during peri-implantation period.

CaR mRNA was expressed at a moderate level in the luminal epithelium of the early stage of pregnancy (from day 1 to day 3). From day 2–3 it began to be expressed more strongly in the stromal cells immediately underneath the luminal epithelium, but decreased to a basal level on day 4. From day 6 to day 9 continuously, both CaR mRNA and protein were highly expressed in the primary decidua. Expression of CaR mRNA and protein in these cells was also observed when a delayed implantation was terminated by estrogen treatment to allow the embryo implantation. In contrast, only basal level expression of the molecules was detected in the cells of animals subjected to a normal-delayed implantation or the pseudopregnant condition.

Embryo transplantation experiment confirmed that CaR expression at the implantation site was induced by the implanting blastocyst. Consistent with the normal pregnant process, CaR mRNA and protein in the cells were also induced by an artificial decidualization procedure. Further experiments demonstrated that treatment of the ovariectomized rat with estrogen or/and progesterone stimulated a high level expression of CaR mRNA in the uterine epithelial and glandular epithelium. In conclusion, CaR was specifically induced during the processes of implantation and subsequent decidualization and may play a role in these processes.

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Xiaoxia Liu, Qingqing Luo, Yanfang Zheng, Xiaoping Liu, Ying Hu, Weifang Liu, Minglian Luo, Yin Zhao, and Li Zou

Preeclampsia is a serious complication of pregnancy and is closely related to endothelial dysfunction, which can be repaired by endothelial progenitor cells (EPCs). The DLL4/NOTCH–EFNB2 (ephrinB2) cascade may be involved in the pathogenesis of preeclampsia by inhibiting the biological activity of EPCs. In addition, both NOTCH1 and NOTCH4, which are specific receptors for DLL4/NOTCH, play critical roles in the various steps of angiogenesis. However, it has not been determined which receptor (NOTCH1, NOTCH4, or both) is specific for the DLL4/NOTCH–EFNB2 cascade. Accordingly, we performed a series of investigations to evaluate it. EFNB2 expression was examined when NOTCH4 or NOTCH1 was downregulated, with or without DLL4 treatment. Then, the effects of NOTCH4 on EPC function were detected. Additionally, we analyzed NOTCH4 and EFNB2 expression in the EPCs from preeclampsia and normal pregnancies. Results showed that NOTCH4 downregulation led to decreased expression of EFNB2, which maintained the same level in the presence of DLL4/NOTCH activation. By contrast, NOTCH1 silencing resulted in a moderate increase in EFNB2 expression, which further increased in the presence of DLL4/NOTCH activation. The downregulation of NOTCH4 resulted in an increase of EPC biological activity, which was similar to EFNB2 silencing. NOTCH4 expression, consistent with the EFNB2 level, increased notably in preeclampsia EPCs compared with the controls. These findings suggest that NOTCH4, not NOTCH1, is the specific receptor for the DLL4/NOTCH–EFNB2 cascade. Blockade of this cascade may enhance the angiogenic property of EPCs, and act as a potential target to promote angiogenesis in patients with preeclampsia.

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Yining Li, Yeu-Farn Lin, Xiang Zhou, Hugh J Clarke, and Daniel J Bernard

Ovarian follicle development is regulated by locally produced TGFβ superfamily members. The TGFβ type III receptor (TGFBR3, or betaglycan), which regulates the actions of diverse TGFβ ligands, including inhibins, is expressed in different ovarian cell types. However, its functional roles in the ovary have not been investigated in vivo. Here, we ablated Tgfbr3 in murine oocytes using the Cre-loxP system. Oocyte-specific Tgfbr3 knockout (cKO) females were fertile, producing litters of similar size and frequency as controls. Their ovarian weights and histology were also normal. Though we confirmed efficient recombination of the floxed alleles, we did not detect Tgfbr3 mRNA in purified oocytes from superovulated cKO or control mice. These results challenge earlier observations of betaglycan protein expression in this cell type. Regardless, Tgfbr3 in the murine oocyte is clearly dispensable for female fertility.

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Xiaoyan Huang, Jun Zhang, Li Lu, Lanlan Yin, Min Xu, Youqun Wang, Zuomin Zhou, and Jiahao Sha

Identification of genes specifically expressed in adult and fetal testis is important in furthering our understanding of testis development and function. In this study, a novel human transcript, designated human testis cAMP-responsive element-binding protein (htCREB), was identified by hybridization of adult and fetal human testis cDNA probes with a human cDNA microarray containing 9216 clones. The htCREB transcript (GenBank Accession no. AY347527) was expressed at 2.35-fold higher levels in adult human testes than in fetal testes. Sequence and ntBLAST analyses against the human genome database indicated that htCREB was a novel splice variant of human CREB. RT-PCR-based tissue distribution experiments demonstrated that the htCREB transcript was highly expressed in adult human testis and in healthy sperm, but not in testes from patients with Sertoli cell-only syndrome. Taken together, these results suggest that the htCREB transcript is chiefly expressed in germ cells and is most likely involved in spermatogenesis.

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Yu-Yin Liu, Yu-Kai Liu, Wen-Ting Hu, Ling-Li Tang, Yan-Ran Sheng, Chun-Yan Wei, Ming-Qing Li, and Xiao-Yong Zhu

Endometriosis (EMS) is a chronic inflammatory disease characterized by the presence of extrauterine endometrial tissues. It has been previously reported that the refluxed blood containing viable endometrial tissues and the defective elimination of peritoneal macrophages in the pelvic cavity may involve in EMS pathogenesis. However, the mechanism by which macrophages exhibit attenuated phagocytic capability in EMS remains undetermined. Herein, we found that heme, the byproduct of lysed erythrocytes, accumulated abnormally in the peritoneal fluid (PF) of patients with EMS (14.22 μmol/L, 95% confidence interval (CI): 12.54–16.71), compared with the EMS-free group (9.517 μmol/L, 95% CI: 8.891–10.1053). This abnormal accumulation was not associated with the color of PF, phase of the menstrual cycle or severity of the disease. The reduced phagocytic ability of peritoneal macrophages (pMφs) was observed in the EMS group. Consistently, a high-concentration (30 μmol/L) heme treatment impaired EMS-pMφs phagocytosis more than a low-concentration (10 μmol/L) heme treatment. A similar phenomenon was observed in the EMS-free control pMφs (Ctrl-pMφs) and the CD14+ peripheral monocytes (CD14+ Mos). These results indicated that a high heme concentration exhibits a negative effect on macrophage phagocytosis, which supplements the mechanism of impaired scavenger function of pMφs in EMS.

Free access

Shengxian Li, Jia Qi, Yongzhen Tao, Qinling Zhu, Rong Huang, Yu Liao, Jiang Yue, Wei Liu, Hanting Zhao, Huiyong Yin, and Yun Sun

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is the most common endocrine disorder in reproductive-age women usually accompanied by lipid metabolic disorders. However, it remains unknown whether arachidonic acid (AA) and its metabolites in follicular fluid (FF) were altered in PCOS patients. This study was intended to measure the levels of AA and its metabolites in the FF of non-obese PCOS patients that underwent in vitro fertilization (IVF) and to explore the possible causes of the alterations. Thirty-nine non-obese women with PCOS and 30 non-obese women without PCOS were enrolled. AA and its metabolites were measured by liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry. The levels of AA metabolites generated via cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) pathway and cytochrome P450 epoxygenase pathway but not lipoxygenase (LOX) pathway were significantly higher in the FF of PCOS patients. The metabolites generated via COX-2 pathway were significantly correlated with levels of testosterone and fasting insulin in serum. The in vitro study further demonstrated that insulin but not testosterone could promote the IL-1β and hCG-induced COX-2 expression and prostaglandin E2 (PGE2) secretion in primary human granulosa cells. In conclusion, there was an elevation in AA metabolites in FF of PCOS patients. Insulin played a pivotal role in the increased AA metabolites generated via COX-2, which could be interpreted as another novel molecular pathophysiological mechanism of PCOS.

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.