Mammalian ovaries contain a large number of oocytes, most of which degenerate either before or at various stages of growth. Dynamic and precise regulation in the ovary involves many factors, each with a unique role. Identifying the single most important factor is impossible; however, it may be possible to identify factors essential for oocyte growth. It is evident that oocytes can grow into competent ova in vitro; however, how faithfully the follicle should mimic the in vivo conditions remains unclear. In the culture system discussed in this review, bovine and mouse oocyte-granulosa cell complexes, at approximately the late mid-growth stage, spread on a substratum without the involvement of theca cells. The structural simplicity of this system is advantageous because it reduces the basic conditions essential for regulation of oocyte growth. Apart from biological factors, high concentrations of polyvinylpyrrolidone (molecular weight: 360000) improved oocyte growth. Among ovarian factors, androstenedione was used to compensate for the absence of theca cells, and it promoted both follicular growth and acquisition of oocyte meiotic competence. Most oocytes cultured in a group were viable after long-term culture, suggesting that unlike ovarian events, there was no exhaustive follicle selection. Collectively, oocytes and their associated granulosa cells can establish independent units capable of supporting oocyte growth in appropriately modified culture media.
We studied the longevity of mice produced without sperm using the genomes of oocytes that are already committed to a germline cell lineage. The first sperm-free mouse “KAGUYA”, which we term ‘bi-maternal mouse’, was born on 3 February, 2003. Bi-maternal embryos were generated using 2 sets of female genomes—one derived from fully grown oocytes from normal adults and the other from non-growing oocytes from newborn pups. These genomes were combined by nuclear transfer. We refined the technique for generating bi-maternal mice and found that genetic manipulations in only 2 regions—the imprinting centres of Igf2-H19 and Dlk1-Gtl2—on chromosomes 7 and 12 of the newborn pups allowed us to generate bi-maternal mice at a high rate. Studying bi-maternal conceptuses and mice provides further insight into the mechanisms by which paternally methylated imprinted genes regulate mammalian ontogenesis.
Interferon tau (IFNT) is the pregnancy recognition signal from ruminant conceptuses. IFNT also acts with P4 to induce expression of genes for transport of nutrients, such as glucose (Gluc) and arginine (Arg) into the uterine lumen to activate mechanistic mammalian target of rapamycin (MTOR) cell signaling that stimulates proliferation, migration, gene transcription and mRNA translation by conceptus trophectoderm (Tr). In ewes, Arg and Gluc increase significantly in the uterine lumen between Days 10 and 15 of pregnancy due to increased expression of transporters for Gluc (SLC2A1 and SLC5A1) and Arg (SLC7A2B) by uterine epithelia. Arg and Gluc stimulate proliferation, migration and mRNA translation by Tr. Arg increases expression of GTP cyclohydrolase 1 (GCH1) and IFNT mRNAs while Arg and Gluc increase ornithine decarboxylase, nitric oxide synthase 2, and GCH1 mRNAs and proteins by Tr cells. GCH1 is required for synthesis of tetrahydrobiopterin, an essential cofactor for all NOS isoforms. Arg is metabolized to nitric oxide and polyamines that increase proliferation and migration of Tr cells. In pigs, Gluc, Arg, leucine (Leu) and glutamine (Gln) increase in the uterine lumen between Days 12 and 15 of pregnancy due to enhanced expression of transporters for Gluc and amino acids. Transporters for Gluc in porcine uterine LE (SLC2A1) and conceptus trophectoderm (SLC2A2) are abundant. Transporters for glutamate and neutral (SLC1A1, SLC1A4) and cationic (SLC7A1, SLC7A2, SLC7A7, SLC7A9) amino acids are expressed in uterine LE and SLC7A3 mRNA is expressed in conceptus Tr. Arg and Leu increase MTOR cell signaling and proliferation of pig Tr, as do Gluc and fructose. Azaserine, an inhibitor of hexosamine biosynthesis, inhibits effects of Gluc and fructose. Thus, select nutrients in the uterine lumen affect gene transcription and mRNA translation to affect conceptus development.
In cattle, the majority of pregnancy loss can be attributed to early embryonic loss which occurs prior maternal recognition of pregnancy on Day 16 (Day 0 = ovulation). During this time, carefully orchestrated spatio-temporal alterations in the transcriptomic profile of the endometrium are required to drive conceptus elongation, via secretions from the endometrium (termed histotroph) and establish uterine receptivity to implantation. The two main modulators of these processed are progesterone (P4) and the pregnancy recognition signal interferon tau (IFNT). Altered concentrations of P4 in circulation mediate its effects via the endometrium and have been associated with different rates of conceptus elongation in cattle. Transcriptomic analysis of the endometrium has shown that modulation of circulating P4 alters endometrial expression of genes that can contribute to histotroph composition, which is beneficial (when P4 is supplemented) or detrimental (when P4 is reduced) to the developing conceptus. In addition, down-regulation of the progesterone receptor, required to establish uterine receptivity, is altered in the endometrium of heifers with altered P4 concentrations. IFNT, a type 1 interferon, also significantly impacts on the endometrial transcriptome. It induces the expression of a large number of classical interferon stimulated genes as early as Day 15 of pregnancy. In summary, the successful establishment of pregnancy in cattle requires a sequence of key events to ensure appropriate maternally derived secretions, establish uterine receptivity to implantation as well as an adequate endometrial response to IFNT production.
The process of blastocyst implantation is a series of interactions between the blastocyst and maternal tissues. The purpose of this process is (1) to provide nourishment to the embryo for developmental growth in appropriate physiological and endocrinological environment until a placenta is established, and (2) to protect the (semi-)allogeneic embryo from any attacks from the maternal immune system. To facilitate successful implantation, therefore, these two aspects of the embryonic demand must be satisfied in the embryo-maternal interface throughout the entire process of implantation. The first concept I present in this paper is that blastocyst implantation essential factors (BIEFs) have dual functions: one, for structural and functional modification of the endometrium to accommodate the developing embryo and provide nourishment and suitable environment for its development, and the other, for modulation, directly or indirectly, of the maternal immune system to prevent attacks by the maternal immune system. The second concept is that BIEFs convert the endometrium (or uterus) from an immunologically non-privileged site to a privileged site. This endometrial (uterine) conversion is the immunological aspect of the blastocyst implantation process. When the endometrium has become receptive for blastocyst implantation, it signifies that the immunological conversion of the endometrium by BIEFs has been sufficiently attained to let the embryo start contacting maternal tissues. During the early stages of placentation, as the trophoblast cells differentiate and make their way to the maternal blood vessels to establish the placenta, BIEFs continuously provide nourishment and immunological protection to the developing embryo. The immunological protection of the embryo/fetus from potential attacks by the maternal immune system appears to reach a peak at the time of establishment of the placenta. Thus, clarification of the roles of BIEFs in both the physiological/endocrinological aspect as well as the immunological aspect is essential for understanding the biological process of implantation.
The oxygen environment in cell culture has a significant impact on the health and performance of cells. Here, we compared the effects of reduced (5%) and ambient (20%) oxygen concentrations on bovine oocyte-granulosa cell complexes, each containing a growing oocyte 90-102 μm in diameter, cultured for 14 days. Both oxygen concentrations showed some advantages and disadvantages; in 5% oxygen, the survival rate of oocytes was significantly higher than in 20% oxygen, but the resulting oocytes were significantly smaller, which was a serious disadvantage. During the first 4 days of culture, the growth and viability of oocytes were satisfactory using 5% oxygen. This observation led us to examine the effect of changing the oxygen concentration from 5% to 20% on Day 4 in order to minimize the expected disadvantages of constant 5% and 20% oxygen. The largest population of fully grown oocytes was obtained from cultures in which the oxygen concentration was changed in this way, which also led to higher oocyte viability than in constant 20% oxygen. A similar tendency was found in the frequency of oocytes becoming blastocysts after in vitro fertilization. Surviving oocytes eventually became located within an enlarged dome-like structure, and although the 5% oxygen environment may have been appropriate for oocyte growth in the early stages, 20% oxygen may have been necessary for the growth of oocytes in the dome-like structure. These results indicate an effective way of modulating oxygen concentration according to the growth of oocyte-granulosa cell complexes in vitro.
Decreased conception rate of dairy cows in the summer is mainly associated with the deleterious effects of environmental thermal stress on the female reproductive tract. Here, we suggest that decreased reproductive performance might be partially due to inferior-quality semen. Semen from five representative bulls was collected in summer (August to September) and winter (December to January) and evaluated with a computerized sperm-quality analyzer for bulls (SQA-Vb). No seasonal effect was found in fresh ejaculate, but sperm examined post-thawing showed lower velocity, motility and progressive motility (P<0.04) in summer vs. winter samples. Element concentrations in the seminal plasma, determined by inductively coupled plasma-atomic emission spectrometry, differed between seasons, with higher (P<0.01) concentration values of K, Mg, Na and S elements in winter vs. summer samples. Therefore, season-induced alterations in seminal plasma element concentration should be taken into account when using an extender for cryopreservation. Acrosome integrity was assessed by a triple-fluorescence test using Hoechst 33342, fluorescein isothiocyanate-conjugated Pisum sativum agglutinin (FITC-PSA) and propidium iodide. Acrosome reaction was examined by a one-step staining method using FITC-PSA. The proportion of sperm cells with a damaged acrosome post-thawing tended to be higher (P<0.07) in semen collected during the summer vs. winter. Such alterations suggest that seasonal reductions in sperm function might also be involved in the decreased conception rate of dairy cows in summer.
The diameter of the preovulatory follicle (POF) and its effects on subsequent corpus luteum (CL) size and conception were studied in 38 lactating indigenous cycling buffaloes in the Mymensingh district of Bangladesh. Body condition score (BCS) at estrus was estimated for the buffaloes. The buffaloes were synchronized with two injections of a synthetic analogue of PGF2α administered 11 days apart. Transrectal ultrasonography was carried out at estrus and on days 5, 9, 12 and 16 post ovulation to determine the POF and successive CL size. Pregnancy was confirmed by ultrasound examination on day 40-45 post ovulation. Twenty one (55.3%) buffaloes were diagnosed as pregnant. The conception rates of thin (BCS ≤2.0), good (BCS 2.5-3.5) and fat (BCS glt;3.5) buffaloes were 7.7, 88.2 and 62.5% (χ2 = 19.54; P<0.05), respectively. The mean diameter of the POF at estrus was larger (P<0.01) in buffaloes that ultimately were diagnosed as pregnant compared with their nonpregnant counterparts (13.7 ± 0.3 vs. 11.2 ± 0.5 mm, respectively). The conception rates of buffaloes having small (9 to ≤ 12 mm), medium (>12 to ≤14 mm) and large (>14 to 16 mm) POFs at estrus were 9.1, 70.0 and 85.7% (χ2 = 13.87, P<0.01), respectively. On day 5 post ovulation, CL size was positively correlated (CL: r=.74, P<0.01) with POF diameter. Retrospective analysis revealed that on day 5 post ovulation, the pregnant buffaloes had higher (P<0.01) post ovulation CL sizes than their nonpregnant counterparts (15.6 vs. 11.8 mm). Similarly, on day 9 post ovulation, the difference in CL size (14.3 vs. 13.6 mm) between pregnant and nonpregnant buffaloes was significant (P<0.05). In conclusion, the diameter of the POF in buffaloes has a positive impact on the size of the post ovulation CL and conception.
To determine whether glucocorticoids affect the function of the bovine corpus luteum (CL) during the estrous cycle and early pregnancy, we examined the effects of exogenous cortisol or reduced endogenous cortisol on the secretion of progesterone (P4) and on pregnancy rate. In preliminary experiments, doses of cortisol and metyrapone (an inhibitor of cortisol synthesis) were established (n=33). Cortisol in effective doses of 10 mg blocked tumor necrosis factor-induced prostaglandin F2α secretion as measured by its metabolite (PGFM) concentrations in the blood. Metyrapone in effective doses of 500 mg increased the P4 concentration. Thus, both reagents were then intravaginally applied in the chosen doses daily from Day 15 to 18 after estrus (Day 0) in noninseminated heifers (n=18) or after artificial insemination (n=36). Pregnancy was confirmed by transrectal ultrasonography between Days 28-30 after insemination. Plasma concentrations of P4 were lower in cortisol-treated heifers than in control heifers on Days 17 and 18 of the estrous cycle (P<0.05). However, the interestrus intervals were not different between control and cortisol-treated animals (P>0.05). Moreover, metyrapone increased P4 and prolonged the CL lifespan in comparison to control animals (P<0.05). Interestingly, in inseminated heifers, cortisol increased the pregnancy rate (75%) compared with control animals (58%), whereas metyrapone reduced the pregnancy rate to 16.7% (P<0.05). The overall results suggest that cortisol, depending on the physiological status of heifers (pregnant vs. nonpregnant), modulates CL function by influencing P4 secretion. Cortisol may have a positive influence on CL function during early pregnancy, leading to support of embryo implantation and resulting in higher rates of pregnancy in heifers.
Nitric oxide synthase (NOS) is a key regulator of angiogenesis and embryogenesis in the mammalian reproductive process. Here, we attempted to clarify the expression and localization of inducible and endothelial NOS (iNOS and eNOS) in the developing rabbit placenta. Real-time RT-PCR analysis indicated that iNOS mRNA was significantly upregulated till the complete development of the placenta (d18), and then significantly decreased at the end of fetal growth stage (d28) during successful pregnancy. The eNOS mRNA was also enhanced in the pregnant uteri and gradually decreased near the term of pregnancy. Western blot analysis also showed elevation of the iNOS and eNOS protein levels during the course of successful pregnancy till the functional maturation of the placenta (d18). Immunohistochemical study revealed distinct localizations of iNOS along the radial arteries and eNOS at the spiral arteries and arterial sinuses in the developing placenta. This may reflect that iNOS and eNOS participate in pregnancy success through placentation-specific vascular formation and by supporting adequate blood circulation in the rabbit placenta.
GATA4, a member of the GATA family, is a well-known transcription factor implicated in the regulation of sex determination and sexual differentiation in mammals. However, little is known about the possible role of GATA4 in fish reproduction. In the present study, a full-length GATA4 cDNA from the tilapia was cloned and characterized. The tilapia GATA4 gene contained an open reading frame (ORF) of 1179 nucleotides encoding a protein of 392 amino acids. Sequence alignment revealed that the tilapia GATA4 protein shared higher homology (ranging from 63.1 to 74.6%) with other vertebrates. RT-PCR analysis indicated that the GATA4 gene is expressed in the ovary, testis, liver, intestine and heart in adult tilapia. In situ hybridization was performed to examine the temporal and spatial expression patterns of GATA4 during tilapia gonadal differentiation and development. In the undifferentiated gonad, GATA4 was expressed in the somatic cells of both sexes. Subsequently, GATA4 expression persisted in the differentiated, juvenile and adult ovary and testis in tilapia. Our data indicate for the first time that GATA4 is not only necessary for the onset of gonadal differentiation, but also important for gonadal development and maturation.
The objectives of this study were to obtain relevant blood flow indices of umbilical arteries (UmA) of porcine fetuses using a laparoscopic ultrasound probe and to relate these data with fetal size at early to mid gestation. Fetal parameters and flow indices, i.e., fetal length and area, fetal heart rate (FHR), systolic pulse duration (T1), interpulse duration (T2), T2/T1 ratio, peak systolic velocity (PSV), time averaged velocity (TAV), resistance index (RI) and pulsatility index (PI), were measured in 182 fetuses of 26 pregnant Landrace gilts on pregnancy day (PD) 36 (122 fetuses from 17 gilts), PD42 (19 fetuses from 3 gilts) and PD51 (42 fetuses from 6 gilts). Fetal heart rate was higher on PD36 than on PD42 (P<0.05). No differences (P>0.05) were obtained concerning systolic pulse duration, flow velocities and RI. On PD42, the PI was lower (P<0.05), while the interpulse duration (P=0.06) and T2/T1 ratio tended (P=0.08) to be higher on PD42 compared with PD36 and to PD51. To find differences in UmA blood flow parameters concerning fetal size, i.e., fetal length, fetuses were retrospectively grouped as follows: small (lower 25%), medium (mean 50%) and large (upper 25%), respectively. Although, fetuses differed in size (P<0.001) within and between days of pregnancy, FHR, PSV, TAV, RI and PI did not differ (P>0.05) among the size classes. Only systolic pulse duration tended to be longer (P=0.05) in large compared with small fetuses on PD36, and interpulse duration was lower in large fetuses on PD36 in comparison with PD51 (P<0.05). Though there was no link between fetal blood flow indices and fetal intrauterine growth retardation (IUGR), with further studies based on these flow indices, it might be possible to evaluate nutrient- or stress-related influences on fetal growth and development, particularly in the case of IUGR.
Somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT) has been exploited in efforts to clone and propagate valuable animal lineages. However, in many instances, recipient oocytes are obtained from sources independent of donor cell populations. As such, influences of potential nuclear-cytoplasmic incompatibility, post SCNT, are largely unknown. In the present study, alterations in mitochondrial protein levels were investigated in adult SCNT pigs produced by microinjection of Meishan pig fetus fibroblast cells into enucleated matured oocytes (maternal Landrace genetic background). Mitochondrial fractions were prepared from liver samples by mechanical homogenization and differential centrifugation. Liver mitochondria were then subjected to two-dimensional difference gel electrophoresis (2-D DIGE). Protein expression changes were confirmed with a volume ratio greater than 2 fold (P<0.05). 2-D DIGE analysis further revealed differential expression of three proteins between the Meishan (n=3) and Landrace (n=3) breeds. Differential expression patterns of 16 proteins were detected in SCNT pig liver tissue (n=3) when compared with Meishan control samples. However, none of the 16 proteins correlated with the three differentially expressed Meishan and Landrace liver mitochondrial proteins. In summary, alteration of mitochondrial protein expression levels was observed in adult SCNT pigs that did not reflect the breed difference of the recipient oocytes. Comparative proteomic analysis represents an important tool for further studies on SCNT animals.
The Ski protein is implicated in the proliferation/differentiation of a variety of cells. We previously reported that the Ski protein is present in granulosa cells of atretic follicles, but not in preovulatory follicles, suggesting that Ski has a role in apoptosis of granulosa cells. However, granulosa cells cannot only undergo apoptosis but can alternatively differentiate into luteal cells. It is unknown whether Ski is expressed and has a role in granulosa cells undergoing luteinization. Thus, the aim of the present study was to determine the localization of the Ski protein in the rat ovary during luteinization to examine if Ski might play a role in this process. In order to examine the Ski protein expression during the progression of luteinization, follicular growth was induced in immature female rats by administration of equine chorionic gonadotropin, and luteinization was induced by human chorionic gonadotropin treatment to mimic the luteinizing hormone (LH) surge. While no Ski-positive granulosa cells were present in the preovulatory follicle, Ski protein expression was induced in response to the LH surge and was maintained after formation of the corpus luteum (CL). Although the Ski protein is absent from the granulosa cells of the preovulatory follicle, its mRNA (c-ski) was expressed, and the level of c-ski mRNA was unchanged even after the LH surge. The combined results demonstrated that Ski protein expression is induced in granulosa cells upon luteinization, and suggested that its expression is regulated posttranscriptionally.
A large proportion of follicles are lost during the initial ischemia that occurs after transplantation of ovarian tissues. Thus, the effect of hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBO) on the follicular loss of ovarian tissues after transplantation was examined in mice. Ovarian slices from ICR mice were transplanted under the kidney capsule in ovariectomized ICR. Hyperbaric oxygen with 100% oxygen was initiated for 30 min at 2.5 atmospheres absolute immediately after transplantation, and this treatment was repeated at 48-h intervals for 2 weeks. The number of follicles was dramatically reduced at 2 weeks post transplantation. However, HBO was significantly effective in enhancing the survival of transplanted ovarian follicles. The survival rates of primordial and primary follicles in ovarian tissues of mice with HBO were significantly higher than those without HBO. These results indicate HBO can be effectively used for the enhancement of survival of transplanted ovarian tissues.