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Jishang Gong, Quanwei Zhang, Qi Wang, Youji Ma, Jiaxiang Du, Yong Zhang, and Xingxu Zhao

PIWI-interacting RNAs (piRNA) are small non-coding RNA molecules expressed in animal germ cells that interact with PIWI family proteins to form RNA–protein complexes involved in epigenetic and post-transcriptional gene silencing of retrotransposons and other genetic elements in germ line cells, including reproductive stem cell self-sustainment, differentiation, meiosis and spermatogenesis. In the present study, we performed high-throughput sequencing of piRNAs in testis samples from yaks in different stages of sexual maturity. Deep sequencing of the small RNAs (18–40 nt in length) yielded 4,900,538 unique reads from a total of 53,035,635 reads. We identified yak small RNAs (18–30 nt) and performed functional characterization. Yak small RNAs showed a bimodal length distribution, with two peaks at 22 nt and >28 nt. More than 80% of the 3,106,033 putative piRNAs were mapped to 4637 piRNA-producing genomic clusters using RPKM. 6388 candidate piRNAs were identified from clean reads and the annotations were compared with the yak reference genome repeat region. Integrated network analysis suggested that some differentially expressed genes were involved in spermatogenesis through ECM–receptor interaction and PI3K-Akt signaling pathways. Our data provide novel insights into the molecular expression and regulation similarities and diversities in spermatogenesis and testicular development in yaks at different stages of sexual maturity.

Free access

Ruizhi Deng, Chengquan Han, Lu Zhao, Qing Zhang, Beifen Yan, Rui Cheng, Biao Wei, Peng Meng, Tingchao Mao, Yong Zhang, and Jun Liu

Endogenous retroviruses (ERVs), which are abundant in mammalian genomes, can modulate the expression of nearby genes, and their expression is dynamic and stage-specific during early embryonic development in mice and humans. However, the functions and mechanisms of ERV elements in regulating embryonic development remain unclear. Here, we utilized several methods to determine the contribution of ERVs to the makeup and regulation of transcripts during embryonic genome activation (EGA). We constructed an ERV library and embryo RNA-seq library (IVF_2c and IVF_8c) of goat to serve as our research basis. The GO and KEGG analysis of nearby ERV genes revealed that some ERV elements may be associated with embryonic development. RNA-seq results were consistent with the features of EGA. To obtain the transcripts derived from the ERV sequences, we blasted the ERV sequences with embryonic transcripts and identified three lncRNAs and one mRNA that were highly expressed in IVF-8c rather than in IVF-2c (q-value <0.05). Then, we validated the expression patterns of nine ERV-related transcripts during early developmental stages and knocked down three high-expression transcripts in EGA. The knockdown of lncRNA TCONS_00460156 or mRNA HSD17B11 significantly decreased the developmental rate of IVF embryos. Our findings suggested that some transcripts from ERVs are essential for the early embryonic development of goat, and analyzing the ERV expression profile during goat EGA may help elucidate the molecular mechanisms of ERV in regulating embryonic development.

Open access

Xiao Han, Cong Zhang, Xiangping Ma, Xiaowei Yan, Bohui Xiong, Wei Shen, Shen Yin, Hongfu Zhang, Qingyuan Sun, and Yong Zhao

Muscarinic acetylcholine receptor (mAChR) antagonists have been reported to decrease male fertility; however, the roles of mAChRs in spermatogenesis and the underlying mechanisms are not understood yet. During spermatogenesis, extensive remodeling between Sertoli cells and/or germ cells interfaces takes place to accommodate the transport of developing germ cells across the blood-testis barrier (BTB) and adluminal compartment. The cell–cell junctions play a vital role in the spermatogenesis process. This study used ICR male mice and spermatogonial cells (C18-4) and Sertoli cells (TM-4). shRNA of control or M5 gene was injected into 5-week-old ICR mice testes. Ten days post-viral grafting, mice were deeply anesthetized with pentobarbital and the testes were collected. One testicle was fresh frozen for RNA-seq analysis or Western blotting (WB). The second testicle was fixed for immunofluorescence staining (IHF). C18-4 or TM-4 cells were treated with shRNA of control or M5 gene. Then, the cells were collected for RNA-seq analysis, WB, or IHF. Knockdown of mAChR M5 disrupted mouse spermatogenesis and damaged the actin-based cytoskeleton and many types of junction proteins in both Sertoli cells and germ cells. M5 knockdown decreased Phldb2 expression in both germ cells and Sertoli cells which suggested that Phldb2 may be involved in cytoskeleton and cell–cell junction formation to regulate spermatogenesis. Our investigation has elucidated a novel role for mAChR M5 in the regulation of spermatogenesis through the interactions of Phldb2 and cell–cell junctions. M5 may be an attractive future therapeutic target in the treatment of male reproductive disorders.

Free access

Yang Yu, Chenhui Ding, Eryao Wang, Xinjie Chen, Xuemei Li, Chunli Zhao, Yong Fan, Liu Wang, Nathalie Beaujean, Qi Zhou, Alice Jouneau, and Weizhi Ji

Even though it generates healthy adults, nuclear transfer in mammals remains an inefficient process. Mainly attributed to abnormal reprograming of the donor chromatin, this inefficiency may also be caused at least partly by a specific effect of the cloning technique which has not yet been well investigated. There are two main procedures for transferring nuclei into enucleated oocytes: fusion and piezoelectric microinjection, the latter being used mostly in mice. We have, therefore, decided to compare the quality and the developmental ability, both in vivo and in vitro, of embryos reconstructed with electrofusion or piezoelectric injection. In addition, the effect of piezo setups of differing electric strengths was investigated. Along with the record of the rate of development, we compared the nuclear integrity in the blastomeres during the first cleavages as well as the morphological and cellular quality of the blastocysts. Our results show that the piezo-assisted micromanipulation can induce DNA damage in the reconstructed embryos, apoptosis, and reduced cell numbers in blastocysts as well as a lower rate of development to term. Even if piezo-driven injection facilitates a faster and more efficient rate of reconstruction, it should be used with precaution and with as low parameters as possible.