The permeability of the plasma membrane to water and cryoprotectants is one of the most important factors for determining suitable conditions for vitrification of mammalian oocytes and embryos. In mouse oocytes and early stage embryos, water and cryoprotectants move slowly, principally by simple diffusion. In contrast, in morulae (and probably blastocysts), water, glycerol, and ethylene glycerol move rapidly, principally by facilitated diffusion via aquaporin 3, and DMSO moves rapidly via channels other than aquaporin 3. However, propylene glycol moves principally by simple diffusion. In cows and pigs, similar results were obtained. However, in bovine morulae, DMSO moves principally by simple diffusion. In pigs, permeability to water, glycerol, and ethylene glycol increases not at the morula stage but at the blastocyst stage, and increases further at the expanded blastocyst stage. Therefore, in general, the permeability of mammalian oocytes and early stage embryos to water and cryoprotectants is low. Then, at later stages, the permeability to water and some cryoprotectants markedly increases and occurs by facilitated diffusion via channels, although there are some species-specific differences.
Ovary is an important organ that houses the oocytes (reproductive cell). Oocyte growth depends on the function of follicular cells such as the granulosa and theca cells. Two-cell two gonadotropin systems are associated with oocyte growth and follicular cell functions. In addition to these systems, it is also known that several growth factors regulate oocyte growth and follicular cell functions. Vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) is involved in thecal vasculature during follicular development and the suppression of granulosa cell apoptosis. Metabolic factors such as insulin, growth hormone (GH) and insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1) also play critical roles in the process of follicular development and growth. These factors are associated not only with follicular development, but also with follicular cell function. Steroid hormones (estrogens, androgens, and progestins) that are secreted from follicular cells influence the function of the female genital tract and its affect the susceptibility to bacterial infection. This review covers our current understanding of the mechanisms by which gonadotrophins and/or steroid hormones regulate the growth factors in the follicular cells of the bovine ovary. In addition, this review describes the effect of endotoxin on the function of follicular cells.
Vertebrate genomes are highly methylated at cytosine residues in CpG sequences. CpG methylation plays an important role in epigenetic gene silencing and genome stability. Compared with other epigenetic modifications, CpG methylation is thought to be relatively stable; however, it is sometimes affected by environmental changes, leading to epigenetic instability and disease. CpG methylation is reversible and regulated by DNA methyltransferases and demethylases including ten-eleven translocation. Here, we discuss CpG methylation instability and the regulation of CpG methylation by DNA methyltransferases and ten-eleven translocation in pluripotent stem cells.
Successful fertilization requires viable and functional spermatozoa to recognize and fuse with the oocyte. In most mammalian species, mature spermatozoa are not capable of fertilizing the oocytes immediately after ejaculation. However, unlike somatic cells, spermatozoa, after leaving the testis, are transcriptionally and translationally silent; therefore, upon completion of spermiogenesis, spermatozoa carry only a minimal amount of essential proteins on their membranes as well as within their restricted volume of cytoplasm. To develop into a fully functional and competent sperm that is capable of successful fertilization, modifications of the sperm membrane surface during its transit in the reproductive tracts is critical. These post-spermatogenesis modifications advance the maturation of epididymal spermatozoa. In addition, components secreted into the lumen of the reproductive tracts that are later added onto the sperm membrane surface also regulate (inhibit or activate) the functions of the spermatozoa. This acquisition of additional proteins from the reproductive tracts may compensate for the inactivity of morphologically mature spermatozoa. In this review, we discuss the contributions of the male and female genital tracts to modifications of the sperm membrane surface at different stages of fertilization.
Interspecies somatic cell nuclear transfer (iSCNT) can be a solution for preservation of endangered species that have limited oocytes. It has been reported that blastocyst production by iSCNT is successful even if the genetic distances between donors and recipients are large. In particular, domestic pig oocytes can support the development of canine to porcine iSCNT embryos. Therefore, we examined whether porcine oocytes may be suitable recipient oocytes for Korean raccoon dog iSCNT. We investigated the effects of trichostatin A (TSA) treatment on iSCNT embryo developmental patterns and nucleolus formation. Enucleated porcine oocytes were fused with raccoon dog fibroblasts by electrofusion and cleavage, and blastocyst development and nucleolus formation were evaluated. To our knowledge, this study is the first in which raccoon dog iSCNT was performed using porcine oocytes; we found that 68.5% of 158 iSCNT embryos had the ability to cleave. However, these iSCNT embryos did not develop past the 4-cell stage. Treatment with TSA did not affect iSCNT embryonic development; moreover, the nuclei failed to form nucleoli at 48 and 72 h post-activation (hpa). In contrast, pig SCNT embryos of the control group showed 18.8% and 87.9% nucleolus formation at 48 and 72 hpa, respectively. Our results demonstrated that porcine cytoplasts efficiently supported the development of raccoon dog iSCNT embryos to the 4-cell stage, the stage of porcine embryonic genome activation (EGA); however, these embryos failed to reach the blastocyst stage and showed defects in nucleolus formation.
Proline-rich tyrosine kinase 2 (Pyk2), a non-receptor tyrosine kinase, is a member of the focal adhesion kinase family and is highly expressed in oocytes. Using a combination of confocal microscopy and RNAi, we localized and studied the function of both Pyk2 and tyrosine-phosphorylated Pyk2 (p-Pyk2) during mouse oocyte fertilization and early embryo development. At the onset of fertilization, Pyk2 and p-Pyk2 were detected predominantly in sperm heads and the oocyte cytoplasm. Upon formation of male and female pronuclei, Pyk2 and its activated form leave the cytoplasm and accumulate in the two pronuclei. We detected Pyk2 in blastomere nuclei and found both Pyk2 and p-Pyk2 in the pre-blastula cytoplasm. Pyk2 and its activated form then disappeared from the blastula nuclei and localized to the perinuclear regions, where blastula cells come into contact with each other. Pyk2 knockdown via microinjection of siRNA into the zygote did not inhibit early embryo development. Our results suggest that Pyk2 plays multiple functional roles in mouse oocyte fertilization as well as throughout early embryo development.
Follicle development is accompanied by proliferation of granulosa cells and increasing oocyte size. To obtain high-quality oocytes in vitro, it is important to understand the processes that occur in oocytes and granulosa cells during follicle development and the differences between in vivo and in vitro follicle development. In the present study, oocytes and granulosa cells were collected from early antral follicles (EAFs, 0.5–0.7 mm in diameter), small antral follicles (SAFs, 1–3 mm in diameter), large antral follicles (LAFs, 3–7 mm in diameter), and in vitro grown oocyte-and-granulosa cell complexes (OGCs), which were cultured for 14 days after collection from EAFs. Gene expression was analyzed comprehensively using the next-generation sequencing technology. We found top upstream regulators during the in vivo follicle development and compared them with those in in vitro developed OGCs. The comparison revealed that HIF1 is among the top regulators during both in vivo and in vitro development of OGCs. In addition, we found that HIF1-mediated upregulation of glycolysis in granulosa cells is important for the growth of OGCs, but the cellular metabolism differs between in vitro and in vivo grown OGCs. Furthermore, on the basis of comparison of upstream regulators between in vivo and in vitro development of OGCs, we believe that low expression levels of FLT1 (VEGFA receptor), SPP1, and PCSK6 can be considered causal factors of the suboptimal development under in vitro culture conditions.
The P-element induced wimpy testis (Piwi) protein family is responsible for initiating spermatogenesis and maintaining the integrity of germ cells and stem cells, but little is known regarding its transcriptional regulation in poultry. Here, we characterized the methylation status of the Piwil1 promoter in five different spermatogenic cell lines using direct bisulfite pyrosequencing and determined that methylation correlates negatively with germ cell type-specific expression patterns of piwil1. We demonstrated that methylation of the −148 CpG site, which is the predicted binding site for the transcription factors TCF3 and NRF1, was differentially methylated in different spermatogenic cells. This site was completely methylated in PGCs (primordial germ cells), but was unmethylated in round spermatids. A similar result was obtained in the region from +121 to +139 CpG sites of the Piwil1 promoter CpG island, which was predicted to contain SOX2 binding sites. In addition, demethylation assays further demonstrated that DNA methylation indeed regulates Piwil1 expression during chicken spermatogenesis. Combined with transcription factor binding site prediction, we speculate that methylation influences the recruitment of corresponding transcription factors. Collectively, we show the negative correlation between promoter methylation and piwil1 expression and that the spatiotemporal expression of chicken Piwil1 from the PGC stage to the round spermatid stage is influenced by methylation-mediated transcription factor regulation.
The induction of pseudopregnancy by the exogenous administration of estradiol dipropionate (EDP) was investigated in cyclic Microminipigs (MMpigs) and the effects of exogenous administration of prostaglandin (PG) F2α on estrus exhibition were assessed in pseudopregnant MMpigs. In experiment 1, ovariectomized MMpigs were given a single intramuscular injection of 0.5, 1.5, or 2.5 mg of EDP. The estradiol-17β level at each of these doses was significantly higher 1 to 3 days after EDP administration than on the day of the injection. In experiment 2, animals were given 1.5 mg of EDP once at 9 to 12 days after the end of estrus (D0) and then no (1.5 mg × 1 group), one (D0 and D4; 1.5 mg × 2 group), or two (D0, D4 and D7; 1.5 mg × 3 group) additional treatments. The pseudopregnancy rate was significantly higher in the 1.5 mg × 3 than in the 1.5 mg × 1 group. In experiment 3, PGF2α was administered twice between 26 and 28 days after EDP treatment to five pseudopregnant gilts with a 24-h interval between the two injections. Estrus after PGF2α treatment and LH surge were observed in 100% and 80% pseudopregnant MMpigs, respectively. The interval from the day of the first PGF2α treatment to the onset of estrus was 6.5 ± 0.2 days. These results indicate that multiple EDP treatments are required for induction of pseudopregnancy in MMpigs and estrus exhibition can be controlled in MMpigs by treatment with EDP and PGF2α.
In vitro growth culture systems for oocytes are being developed in several mammalian species. In these growth culture systems, in vitro grown oocytes usually have lower blastocyst formation than in vivo grown oocytes after in vitro fertilization. Furthermore, there have been a few reports that investigated the fertilization ability of in vitro grown oocytes in large animals. The purpose of this study was to investigate the fertilization process and developmental competence of bovine oocytes grown in vitro. Oocyte-granulosa cell complexes collected from bovine early antral follicles (0.4−0.7 mm in diameter) were cultured for growth with 17β-estradiol and androstenedione for 14 days and matured in vitro. These oocytes were then inseminated for 6 or 12 h, and further cultured for development up to 8 days in vitro. After growth culture, oocytes grew from 95 µm to around 120 µm and acquired maturation competence (79%). Although fertilization rates of in vitro grown oocytes were low after 6 h of insemination, 34% of in vitro grown oocytes fertilized normally after 12 h of insemination, having two polar bodies and two pronuclei with a sperm tail, and 22% of these oocytes developed into blastocysts after 8 days of culture. The fertilization and blastocyst formation rates were similar to those of in vivo grown oocytes. In addition, blastocyst cell numbers were also similar between in vitro and in vivo grown oocytes. In conclusion, in vitro grown bovine oocytes are similar to in vivo grown oocytes in fertilization ability and can develop into blastocysts.
Endotoxins released by Gram-negative bacteria are potent stimulators of tumor necrosis factor α (TNF-α) production. The objectives of this study were to evaluate plasma levels of TNF-α, TNF-α secretion, and mRNA levels of TNF and TNF-α receptor type 1 (TNFR1) following exposure to lipopolysaccharide (LPS). For this, we used cultured endometrial cells or organ cultures, throughout the estrous cycle, after hormone treatment with medroxyprogesterone acetate (MPA), and during pyometra. Plasma TNF-α concentrations were increased in animals at estrus (P < 0.05) compared to other groups. In the LPS-challenged endometrium, secretion of TNF-α by tissues collected during estrus increased (P < 0.001) compared to that of other groups. LPS, alone or combined with TNF-α, upregulated TNF gene expression in the feline endometrium at diestrus (P < 0.001 for both treatments), in queens treated short-term with MPA (P < 0.01 and P < 0.05, respectively) and in queens treated long-term with MPA (P < 0.01 and P < 0.001, respectively). During pyometra, TNF and TNFR1 mRNA were increased only after tissues were challenged with TNF-α and LPS (P < 0.001 and P < 0.01, respectively). When cultured endometrial cells were challenged with LPS, the concentration of TNF-α increased only in epithelial cells after 4 h and 12 h (P < 0.05 and P < 0.01, respectively). Since LPS did not affect stromal cells, but TNF-α increased its own transcript after 2 h (P < 0.01), 4 h (P < 0.05) and 12 h (P < 0.001), we assume that stromal cells are not directly involved in pathogen recognition, as was the case for epithelial cells.
This study tested the hypothesis that oocyte-derived paracrine factors (ODPFs) regulate miRNA expression in mouse granulosa cells. Expression of mmu-miR-322-5p (miR-322) was higher in mural granulosa cells (MGCs) than in cumulus cells of the Graafian follicles. The expression levels of miR-322 decreased when cumulus cells or MGCs were co-cultured with oocytes denuded of their cumulus cells. Inhibition of SMAD2/3 signaling by SB431542 increased miR-322 expression by cumulus-oocyte complexes (COCs). Moreover, the cumulus cells but not the MGCs in Bmp15–/–/Gdf9+/– (double-mutant) mice exhibited higher miR-322 expression than those of wild-type mice. Taken together, these results show that ODPFs suppress the expression of miR-322 in cumulus cells. Gene ontology analysis of putative miR-322 targets whose expression was detected in MGCs with RNA-sequencing suggested that multiple biological processes are affected by miR-322 in MGCs. These results demonstrate that ODPFs regulate miRNA expression in granulosa cells and that this regulation may participate in the differential control of cumulus cell versus MGC functions. Therefore, the ODPF-mediated regulation of cumulus cells takes place at both transcriptional and post-transcriptional levels.
Oct-4, a member of the POU family of transcription factors, is a key factor that regulates the segregation of the inner cell mass (ICM) and the trophectoderm (TE) during the transition from morula to blastocyst in mice. However, little is known about its role in porcine early embryogenesis. To determine the function of OCT-4 in the ICM and TE segregation of porcine embryos, we studied the developmental morphology of porcine embryos using RNA interference technology. Our experiments demonstrated that when 1-cell stage embryos were co-injected with the small interfering RNA (siRNA)for targeted knockdown of OCT-4 (OCT-4-siRNA) and tetramethylrhodamine isothiocyanate (TRITC)-dextran conjugate (Dx), they failed to form blastocysts. Therefore, in this study, we constructed chimeric embryos comprising blastomeres that either expressed OCT-4 normally or showed downregulated OCT-4 expression by co-injection of OCT-4-siRNA and Dx into one blastomere in 2- to 4-cell stage embryos. In control embryos, which were co-injected with control siRNA and Dx, Dx-positive cells contributed to the TE lineage in almost all the blastocysts examined. In contrast, Dx-positive cells derived from a blastomere co-injected with OCT-4-siRNA and Dx were degenerated in almost half the blastocysts. This was probably due to the inability of these cells to differentiate into the TE lineage. Real-time RT-PCR analysis revealed no difference in the levels of SOX2, TEAD4, FGF4 and FGFR1-IIIc, all of which are known to be regulated by OCT-4, between the OCT-4-siRNA-injected morulae and the control ones. However, the level of CDX2, a molecule specifically expressed in the TE lineage, was significantly higher in the former than in the latter. Our results indicate that continuous expression of OCT-4 in blastomeres is essential for TE formation of porcine embryos.
Recently, the conception rates after artificial insemination have been pointed out to decline continuously. To overcome this problem, the control of frozen and thawed sperm quality is required. However, the mechanism of bovine sperm functional regulation is still largely unknown. In mammals, the ejaculated sperm are capable of showing fertilizing ability during migration in the female reproductive organs. It is well known that these female organs secrete several factors contributing to sperm capacitation. We previously reported that neurotensin (NT) secreted from the oviduct and cumulus cells enhanced sperm capacitation and acrosome reaction in mice. In this study, we confirmed the expression of the NT receptor (NTR1) in the bovine sperm neck region and the secretion of NT in the bovine uterus and oviduct. The similar expression patterns of NT and NTR1 suggests a conserved mechanism of sperm functional regulation between mouse and cattle. Thus, we examined the effects of exogenous NT on the bovine sperm functions. First, we showed that NT induced sperm protein tyrosine phosphorylation in a dose-dependent manner, suggesting that NT enhances sperm capacitation. Second, we showed that NT induced acrosome reactions of capacitated sperm in a dose-dependent manner, suggesting that NT facilitates acrosome reaction. Finally, we used a computer-aided sperm analysis system to show that NT did not have a great effect on sperm motility. These results suggest that NT acts as a facilitator of sperm capacitation and acrosome reaction in the female reproductive tracts in cattle, highlighting the importance of NT-mediated signaling to regulate sperm functions.
Transient Receptor Potential Vanilloid (TRPV) 4 is one of the temperature-sensitive ion channels involved in temperature receptors, and it is known to be activated from 35 to 40ºC. Here we analyzed sperm motility function of Trpv4 knockout (KO) mouse in temperature-gradient conditions to elucidate the thermotaxis of mouse sperm and the involvement of TRPV4 in thermotaxis. The sperm were introduced at the vertical column end of a T-shaped chamber filled with medium in a plastic dish, and we measured the number of sperm that arrived at both ends of the wide column where we had established a temperature gradient of approx. 2ºC, and we evaluated the sperm’s thermotaxis. Large numbers of wild-type (WT) mouse sperm migrated into the high level of the temperature gradient that was set in the wide column, and thermotaxis was confirmed. The ratio of migrated sperm at the high temperature level of the T-shaped chamber was decreased in the KO sperm and Ruthenium red (a TRPV antagonist) treated sperm compared with the WT sperm. The thermotaxis of the mouse sperm was confirmed, and the involvement of TRPV4 in this thermotaxis was suggested.