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Zhoufei Mao, Liuhong Yang, Xiaosheng Lu, Anni Tan, Yuxia Wang, Fei Ding, Luanjuan Xiao, Xufeng Qi, and Yanhong Yu

C1q/tumor necrosis factor-related protein 3 (C1QTNF3) is a novel adipokine with modulating effects on metabolism, inflammation and the cardiovascular system. C1QTNF3 expression levels in the sera and omental adipose tissues of women with PCOS are low compared to control subjects. However, the expression and function of C1QTNF3 in the ovary has not previously been examined. Here, we assessed the expression patterns of C1qtnf3 in the ovary and explored its role in folliculogenesis. The C1qtnf3 transcript abundance was higher in large follicles than in small follicles and was under the influence of gonadotropin. C1QTNF3 was detected mainly in the granulosa cells and oocytes of growing follicles and modestly in the granulosa cells of atretic follicles and in luteal cells. Excess androgen significantly decreased C1QTNF3 expression in the ovaries in vivo and in granulosa cells in vitro. Recombinant C1QTNF3 protein accelerated the weight gain of ovarian explants and the growth of preantral follicles induced by follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) in vitro. The stimulatory effect of C1QTNF3 on ovarian growth was accompanied by the initiation of AKT, mTOR, p70S6K and 4EBP1 phosphorylation, an increase in CCND2 expression and a reduction in cleaved CASP3 levels. Moreover, the addition of C1QTNF3 accelerated proliferation and reduced activated CASP3/7 activity in granulosa cells. In vivo, the ovarian intrabursal administration of the C1QTNF3 antibody delayed gonadotropin-induced antral follicle development. Taken together, our data demonstrate that C1QTNF3 is an intraovarian factor that promotes follicle growth by accelerating proliferation, decelerating apoptosis and promoting AKT/mTOR phosphorylation.

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Scott Convissar, Marah Armouti, Michelle A Fierro, Nicola J Winston, Humberto Scoccia, A Musa Zamah, and Carlos Stocco

The regulation of AMH production by follicular cells is poorly understood. The purpose of this study was to determine the role of the oocyte-secreted factors, growth differentiation factor 9 (GDF9) and bone morphogenetic protein 15 (BMP15), on AMH production in primary human cumulus cells. Cumulus cells from IVF patients were cultured with a combination of GDF9, BMP15, recombinant FSH and specific signaling inhibitors. Stimulation with GDF9 or BMP15 separately had no significant effect on AMH mRNA levels. In contrast, simultaneous stimulation with GDF9 and BMP15 (G + B) resulted in a significant increase in AMH mRNA expression. Increasing concentration of G + B (0.6, 2.5, 5 and 10 ng/mL) stimulated AMH in a dose-dependent manner, showing a maximal effect at 5 ng/mL. Western blot analyses revealed an average 16-fold increase in AMH protein levels in cells treated with G + B when compared to controls. FSH co-treatment decreased the stimulation of AMH expression by G + B. The stimulatory effect of G + B on the expression of AMH was significantly decreased by inhibitors of the SMAD2/3 signaling pathway. These findings show for the first time that AMH production is regulated by oocyte-secreted factors in primary human cumulus cells. Moreover, our novel findings establish that the combination of GDF9 + BMP15 potently stimulates AMH expression.

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Ashley F George, Kathleen M Rahman, Dori J Miller, Anne A Wiley, Meredith E Camp, Frank F Bartol, and Carol A Bagnell

Nursing ensures lactocrine delivery of maternally derived, milk-borne bioactive factors to offspring, which affects postnatal development of female reproductive tract tissues. Disruption of lactocrine communication for two days from birth (postnatal day (PND) 0) by feeding milk replacer in lieu of nursing or consumption of colostrum alters porcine uterine gene expression globally by PND 2 and inhibits uterine gland genesis by PND 14. Here, objectives were to determine effects of: (1) nursing or milk replacer feeding from birth; (2) a single dose of colostrum or milk replacer and method of feeding and (3) a single feeding of colostrum or milk replacer, with or without oral supplementation of IGF1, administered at birth on aspects of porcine uterine development at 12-h postnatally. Results indicate nursing for 12 h from birth supports rapid establishment of a uterine developmental program, illustrated by patterns of endometrial cell proliferation, expression of genes associated with uterine wall development and entry into mitosis and establishment of a uterine MMP9/TIMP1 system. A single feeding of colostrum at birth increased endometrial cell proliferation at 12 h, regardless of method of feeding. Oral supplementation of IGF1 was sufficient to support endometrial cell proliferation at 12 h in replacer-fed gilts, and supplementation of colostrum with IGF1 further increased endometrial cell proliferation. Results indicate that lactocrine regulation of postnatal uterine development is initiated with the first ingestion of colostrum. Further, results suggest IGF1 may be lactocrine-active and support a 12-h bioassay, which can be used to identify uterotrophic lactocrine activity.

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Jacqueline M Wallace, John S Milne, Raymond P Aitken, Graham W Horgan, and Clare L Adam

Low birthweight is a risk factor for later adverse health. Here the impact of placentally mediated prenatal growth restriction followed by postnatal nutrient abundance on growth, glucose metabolism and body composition was assessed in both sexes at key stages from birth to mid-adult life. Singleton-bearing adolescent dams were fed control or high nutrient intakes to induce normal or growth-restricted pregnancies respectively. Restricted lambs had ~40% reduced birthweight. Fractional growth rates were higher in restricted lambs of both sexes predominantly during suckling/juvenile phases. Thereafter, rates and patterns of growth differed by sex. Absolute catch-up was not achieved and restricted offspring had modestly reduced weight and stature at mid-adulthood necropsy (~109 weeks). Dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry revealed lower bone mineral density in restricted vs normal lambs at 11, 41, 64 and 107 weeks, with males > females from 41 weeks onwards. Body fat percentage was higher in females vs males throughout, in restricted vs normal lambs at weaning (both sexes) and in restricted vs normal females at mid-adulthood. Insulin secretion after glucose challenge was greater in restricted vs normal of both sexes at 7 weeks and in restricted males at 32 weeks. In both sexes, fasting glucose concentrations were greater in restricted offspring across the life course, while glucose area under the curve after challenge was higher in restricted offspring at 32, 60, 85 and 106 weeks, indicative of persistent glucose intolerance. Therefore, prenatal growth restriction has negative consequences for body composition and metabolism throughout the life course with the effects modulated by sex differences in postnatal growth rates, fat deposition and bone mass accrual.

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Marten Michaelis, Alexander Sobczak, Dirk Koczan, Martina Langhammer, Norbert Reinsch, Jennifer Schön, and Joachim M Weitzel


Factors of high fertility are poorly described. The majority of transgenic or knockout models with a reproductive phenotype are subfertile or infertile phenotypes. Few genotypes have been linked to improved reproductive performance (0.2%) or increased litter size (1%). In this study, we used a unique mouse model, fertility line FL1, selected for ‘high fertility’ for more than 170 generations. This strain has almost doubled the number of littermates as well as their total birth weight accompanied by an elevated ovulation rate and increased numbers of corpora lutea compared to a randomly mated and unselected control line (Ctrl). Here, we investigate whether the gonadal tissue of FL1 males are affected by ‘co-evolution’ after more than 40 years of female-focused selection. Using microarrays, we analysed the testicular transcriptome of the FL1 and Ctrl mice. These data were also compared with previously published female gonadal transcriptional alterations. We detected alterations in testicular gene expression, which are partly associated with female reproductive performance. Thus, female-focused selection for litter size has not only affected the female side, but also has been manifested in transcriptional alterations on the male gonadal organ. This suggests consequences for the entire mouse lines in the long run and emphasizes the perspective of inevitably considering both genders about mechanisms of high fertility.

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Jacqueline M Wallace, John S Milne, Clare L Adam, and Raymond P Aitken

The influence of maternal obesity during oocyte development and its putative interaction with nutrient reserves at conception on pregnancy outcome were examined in an adolescent sheep model. Donor ewes were nutritionally managed to achieve contrasting adiposity (control (CD)/obese (ObD)) for 6 weeks prior to superovulation and inseminated by a non-obese sire. Morulae from 6 CD and 7 ObD were transferred in singleton into adolescent recipients of identical age but differing adiposity, classified as relatively fat or thin respectively. Thereafter, all were overnourished to promote rapid growth/adiposity (2 × 2 design, 13/14 pregnancies/group). A fifth recipient group of intermediate adiposity received embryos from another 5 CD, was offered a moderate intake to maintain adiposity throughout gestation and acted as controls for normal pregnancy outcome (optimally treated control (OTC), 19 pregnancies). Donor obesity did not influence ovulation, fertilisation or recovery rates or impact embryo morphology. Gestation length and colostrum yield were unaffected by donor or recipient adiposity and were reduced relative to OTC. Total fetal cotyledon and lamb birth weights were independent of initial donor adiposity but reduced in relatively thin vs relatively fat recipients and lower than those in the OTC group. In spite of high placental efficiency, the incidence of fetal growth restriction was greatest in the thin recipients. Thus, maternal adiposity at conception, but not pre-conception maternal obesity, modestly influences the feto-placental growth trajectory, whereas comparison with the OTC indicates that high gestational intakes to promote rapid maternal growth remain the dominant negative influence on pregnancy outcome in young adolescents. These findings inform dietary advice for pregnant adolescent girls.

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S S Walusimbi, L M Wetzel, D H Townson, and J L Pate

The objectives of this study were to optimize the isolation of luteal endothelial cells (LEC) and examine their functional interactions with autologous T lymphocytes. Analysis by flow cytometry showed that the purity of LEC isolated by filtration was nearly 90% as indicated by Bandeiraea simplicifolia (BS)-1 lectin binding. LEC expressed mRNA for progesterone receptor (PGR), prostaglandin receptors (PTGFR, PTGER2 and 4, and PTGIR), tumor necrosis factor receptors (TNFRSF1A&B) and interleukin (IL) 1B receptors (IL1R1&2). LEC were pretreated with either vehicle, progesterone (P4; 0–20 µM), prostaglandin (PG) E2 or PGF (0–0.2 µM), and further treated with or without TNF and IL1B (50 ng/mL each). LEC were then incubated with autologous T lymphocytes in an adhesion assay. Fewer lymphocytes adhered to LEC after exposure to high compared to low P4 concentrations (cubic response; P < 0.05). In contrast, 0.2 µM PGE2 and PGF each increased T lymphocyte adhesion in the absence of cytokines (P < 0.05). LEC induced IL2 receptor alpha (CD25) expression and proliferation of T lymphocytes. In conclusion, filtration is an effective way of isolating large numbers of viable LEC. It is proposed that PGs and P4 modulate the ability of endothelial cells to bind T lymphocytes, potentially regulating extravasation, and that LEC activate T lymphocytes migrating into or resident in the CL.

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Derek A Heath, Janet L Pitman, and Kenneth P McNatty

Bone morphogenetic factor 15 (BMP15) and growth differentiation factor 9 (GDF9) are oocyte-secreted factors with demonstrable effects on ovarian follicular development and ovulation rate. However, the molecular forms of BMP15 and GDF9 produced by oocytes remain unclear. The aims herein, using Western blotting (WB) procedures with specific monoclonal antibodies (mabs), were to identify the molecular forms of BMP15 and GDF9 synthesised and secreted by isolated ovine (o) and bovine (b) oocytes in vitro. The mabs were known to recognise the biological forms of BMP15 or GDF9 since they had previously been shown to inhibit their bioactivities in vitro and in vivo. Using recombinant variants of oBMP15 and oGDF9, including a cysteine mutant form of oBMP15 (S356C) and a human (h) BMP15:GDF9 heterodimer (cumulin), it was established that the mabs were able to identify monomeric, dimeric, promature and higher-molecular-weight forms of BMP15 and GDF9 and cumulin (GDF9 mab only). After using non-reducing, reducing and reducing + cross-linking conditions, the major oocyte-secreted forms of o and b BMP15 and GDF9 were the cleaved and uncleaved monomeric forms of the promature proteins. There was no evidence for dimeric or heterodimeric forms of either mature BMP15 or GDF9. From in silico modelling studies using transforming growth factor beta (TGFB), activin or BMP crystal templates, and both present and previously published data, a model is proposed to illustrate how the monomeric forms of BMP15 and GDF9 may interact with their type II and type I cell-surface receptors to initiate the synergistic actions of these growth factors.

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Bruce F Kimler, Shawn M Briley, Brian W Johnson, Austin G Armstrong, Susmita Jasti, and Francesca E Duncan

Radiation damage due to total body irradiation (TBI) or targeted abdominal radiation can deplete ovarian follicles and accelerate reproductive aging. We characterized a mouse model of low-dose TBI to investigate how radiation affects the follicular and stromal compartments of the ovary. A single TBI dose of either 0.1 Gy or 1 Gy (Cesium-137 γ) was delivered to reproductively adult CD1 female mice, and sham-treated mice served as controls. Mice were euthanized either 2 weeks or 5 weeks post exposure, and ovarian tissue was harvested. To assess the ovarian reserve, we classified and counted the number of morphologically normal follicles in ovarian histologic sections for all experimental cohorts using an objective method based on immunohistochemistry for an oocyte-specific protein (MSY2). 0.1 Gy did not affect that total number of ovarian follicles, whereas 1 Gy resulted in a dramatic loss. At two weeks, there was a significant reduction in all preantral follicles, but early antral and antral follicles were still present. By five weeks, there was complete depletion of all follicle classes. We examined stromal quality using histologic stains to visualize ovarian architecture and fibrosis and by immunohistochemistry and quantitative microscopy to assess cell proliferation, cell death and vasculature. There were no differences in the ovarian stroma across cohorts with respect to these markers, indicating that this compartment is more radio-resistant relative to the germ cells. These findings have implications for reproductive health and the field of fertility preservation because the radiation doses we examined mimic scatter doses experienced in typical therapeutic regimens.

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Michael F Robuck, Christine M O’Brien, Kelsi M Knapp, Sheila D Shay, James D West, J M Newton, James C Slaughter, Bibhash C Paria, Jeff Reese, and Jennifer L Herington

In mouse models used to study parturition or pre-clinical therapeutic testing, measurement of uterine contractions is limited to either ex vivo isometric tension or operative intrauterine pressure (IUP). The goal of this study was to: (1) develop a method for transcervical insertion of a pressure catheter to measure in vivo intrauterine contractile pressure during mouse pregnancy, (2) determine whether this method can be utilized numerous times in a single mouse pregnancy without affecting the timing of delivery or fetal outcome and (3) compare the in vivo contractile activity between mouse models of term and preterm labor (PTL). Visualization of the cervix allowed intrauterine pressure catheter (IUPC) placement into anesthetized pregnant mice (plug = day 1, delivery = day 19.5). The amplitude, frequency, duration and area under the curve (AUC) of IUP was lowest on days 16–18, increased significantly (P < 0.05) on the morning of day 19 and reached maximal levels during by the afternoon of day 19 and into the intrapartum period. An AUC threshold of 2.77 mmHg discriminated between inactive labor (day 19 am) and active labor (day 19 pm and intrapartum period). Mice examined on a single vs every experimental timepoint did not have significantly different IUP, timing of delivery, offspring number or fetal/neonatal weight. The IUP was significantly greater in LPS-treated and RU486-treated mouse models of PTL compared to time-matched vehicle control mice. Intrapartum IUP was not significantly different between term and preterm mice. We conclude that utilization of a transcervical IUPC allows sensitive assessment of in vivo uterine contractile activity and labor progression in mouse models without the need for operative approaches.