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Qi-Tao Huang, Oksana Shynlova, Mark Kibschull, Mei Zhong, Yan-Hong Yu, Stephen G Matthews and Stephen J Lye

Uterine tissues contain the efflux transporter P-glycoprotein (P-gp, encoded by Abcb1a/1b gene), but little is known about how it changes through gestation. Our aim was to investigate the expression profile and cellular localization of P-gp in the pregnant, laboring and post-partum (PP) rat uterus. We propose that during pregnancy the mechanical and hormonal stimuli play a role in regulating myometrial Abcb1a/1b/P-gp. Samples from bilaterally and unilaterally pregnant rats were collected throughout gestation, during labor, and PP (n=4–6/gestational day). RNA and protein were isolated and subjected to quantitative PCR and immunoblotting; P-gp transcript and protein were localized by in situ hybridization and immunohistochemistry. Expression of Abcb1a/1b gene and membrane P-gp protein in uterine tissue (1) increased throughout gestation, peaked at term (GD19-21) and dropped during labor (GD23L); and (2) was upregulated only in gravid but not in empty horn of unilaterally pregnant rats. (3) The drop of Abcb1a/1b mRNA on GD23 was prevented by artificial maintenance of elevated progesterone (P4) levels in late gestation; (4) injection of the P4 receptor antagonist RU486 on GD19 caused a significant decrease in Abcb1 mRNA levels. (5) In situ hybridization and immunohistochemistry indicated that Abcb1/P-gp is absent from myometrium throughout gestation; (6) was expressed exclusively by uterine microvascular endothelium (at early gestation) and luminal epithelium (at mid and late gestation), but was undetectable during labor. In conclusion, ABC transporter protein P-gp in pregnant uterus is hormonally and mechanically regulated. However, its substrate(s) and precise function in these tissues during pregnancy remains to be determined.

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Jin Yu Zhang, Huan Sheng Dong, Reza K Oqani, Tao Lin, Jung Won Kang and Dong Il Jin

Cell-to-cell contact mediated by cell adhesion is fundamental to the compaction process that ensures blastocyst quality during embryonic development. In this study, we first showed that Rho-associated coiled-coil protein kinases (ROCK1 and ROCK2) were expressed both in porcine oocytes and IVF preimplantation embryos, playing different roles in oocytes maturation and embryo development. The amount of mRNA encoding ROCK1 and the protein concentration clearly increased between the eight-cell and morula stages, but decreased significantly when blastocysts were formed. Conversely, ROCK2 was more abundant in the blastocyst compared with other embryonic stages. Moreover, immunostaining showed that ROCK1 protein distribution changed as the embryo progressed through cleavage and compaction to the morula stage. Initially, the protein was predominantly associated with the plasma membrane but later became cytoplasmic. By contrast, ROCK2 protein was localized in both the cytoplasm and the spindle rotation region during oocyte meiosis, but in the cytoplasm and nucleus as the embryo developed. In addition, ROCK2 was present in the trophectoderm cells of the blastocyst. Treatment with 15 μM Y27632, a specific inhibitor of ROCKs, completely blocked further development of early four-cell stage embryos. Moreover, we did not detect the expression of ROCK1 but did detect ROCK2 expression in blastocysts. Moreover, lysophosphatidic acid an activator of ROCKs significantly improved the rates of blastocyst formation. These data demonstrate that ROCKs are required for embryo development to the blastocyst stage. Together, our results indicate that ROCK1 and ROCK2 may exert different biological functions during the regulation of compaction and in ensuring development of porcine preimplantation embryos to the blastocyst stage.

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Zi-gang Shen, Wei He, Ji Zhang, Hai-yang He, Xia Yang, Zheng-qiong Chen, Ping Yang, Jian Li, Zhi-qing Liang, Yu-zhang Wu and Jin-tao Li

SPINLW1 (previously known as eppin (epididymal protease inhibitor)) is a target under intense scrutiny in the study of male contraceptive vaccines. B-cell-dominant epitopes are now recognized as key parts of the induction of humoral immune responses against target antigens. The generation of robust humoral responses in vivo has become a crucial problem in the development of modern vaccines. In this study, we developed a completely novel B-cell-dominant-epitope-based mimovirus vaccine, which is a kind of virus-size particulate antigen delivery system. The mimovirus successfully self-assembled from a cationic peptide containing a cell-penetrating peptide of TAT49–57 and a plasmid DNA encoding both three SPINLW1 (103–115) copies and adjuvant C3d3. The male mice were immunized with the epitope-based mimovirus vaccine, which resulted in a gradual elevation of specific serum IgG antibody levels. These reached a peak at week 4. Mating for the fertility assay showed that the mimovirus vaccine had accomplished a moderate fertility inhibition effect and investigation into the mechanism of action showed that it did so by interfering with the reproductive function of the sperm but that it did not damage the structures of the testes or cause serum testosterone to decline. Our results suggest an ideal protocol for suppressing fertility in mice by an engineered mimovirus vaccine.

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Songcun Wang, Fengrun Sun, Mutian Han, Yinghua Liu, Qinyan Zou, Fuxin Wang, Yu Tao, Dajin Li, Meirong Du, Hong Li and Rui Zhu

There is delicate crosstalk between fetus-derived trophoblasts (Tros) and maternal cells during normal pregnancy. Dysfunctions in interaction are highly linked to some pregnancy complications, such as recurrent spontaneous abortion (RSA), pre-eclampsia and fetal growth restriction. Hyaluronan (HA), the most abundant component of extracellular matrix, has been reported to act as both a pro- and an anti-inflammatory molecule. Previously, we reported that HA promotes the invasion and proliferation of Tros by activating PI3K/Akt and MAPK/ERK1/2 signaling pathways. While lower HA secretion by Tros was observed during miscarriages than that during normal pregnancies, in the present study, we further confirmed that higher secretion of HA by Tros could induce M2 polarization of macrophages at the maternal–fetal interface by interacting with CD44 and activating the downstream PI3K/Akt-STAT-3/STAT-6 signaling pathways. Furthermore, HA could restore the production of IL-10 and other normal pregnancy markers by decidual macrophages (dMφs) from RSA. These findings underline the important roles of HA in regulating the function of dMφs and maintaining a normal pregnancy.

Free access

Guo-Min Zhang, Ming-Tian Deng, Zhi-Hai Lei, Yong-Jie Wan, Hai-Tao Nie, Zi-Yu Wang, Yi-Xuan Fan, Feng Wang and Yan-Li Zhang

During goat follicular development, abnormal expression of nuclear respiratory factor 1 (NRF1) in granulosa cells may drive follicular atresia with unknown regulatory mechanisms. In this study, we investigated the effects of NRF1 on steroidogenesis and cell apoptosis by overexpressing or silencing it in goat luteinized granulosa cells (LGCs). Results showed that knockdown of NRF1 expression significantly inhibited the expression of STAR and CYP19A1, which are involved in sex steroid hormones synthesis, and led to lower estrogen levels. Knockdown of NRF1 resulted in an increased percentage of apoptosis, probably due to the release of cytochrome c from mitochondria, accompanied by upregulating mRNA and protein levels of apoptosis-related markers BAX, caspase 3 and caspase 9. These data indicate that NRF1 might be related with steroidogenesis and cell apoptosis. Furthermore, NRF1 silence reduced mitochondrial transcription factor A (TFAM) transcription activity, mtDNA copy number and ATP level. Simultaneously, knockdown of NRF1 suppressed the transcription and translation levels of SOD, GPx and CAT, decreased glutathione level and increased 8-OHdG level. However, the overexpression of NRF1 in LGCs or gain of TFAM in NRF1 silenced LGCs increased the expression of genes involved in mitochondrial function and biogenesis, and elevated the antioxidant stress system and steroids synthesis. Taken together, aberrant expression of NRF1 could induce mitochondrial dysfunction and disturb the cellular redox balance, which lead to disturbance of steroid hormone synthesis, and trigger LGC apoptosis through the mitochondria-dependent pathway. These findings will be helpful for understanding the role of NRF1 in goat ovarian follicular development and atresia.

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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.