Male infertility has become a very serious problem in the human reproduction system, but the molecular mechanism of infertility remains largely unknown. Fertilization is the phenomenon in which a sperm and oocyte find each other, interact, and fuse. Sperm-oocyte fusion-related factors on the sperm side play crucial roles in male infertility. For example, IZUMO1 is well-known as a sperm protein essential for fusion of a sperm and oocyte, but its dysfunction or mutation can result in male infertility. Recent studies showed a novel sperm protein named Bactericidal/permeability-increasing protein (BPI), which takes part in the sperm-oocyte fusion process. The complexity and expected redundancy of the factors involved makes the process intricate, with a still poorly understood mechanism, which is difficult to comprehend in full detail. This review summarizes the known molecules involved in the process of sperm-oocyte fusion, mainly focusing on the relevant factors on the sperm side, whose dysregulation may potentially be associated with male infertility. New insights may come from these molecules in this review, can facilitate the development of new treatments of male infertility, and may have a diagnostic value in infertility.
After fertilization, the genome of zygotes is transcriptionally silent. The timing of the initiation of transcription is species-specific and occurs at the mid-1-cell stage in mice. Recent analyses using high-throughput sequencing (HTS) have identified thousands of genes transcribed at the 1-cell stage, and the pattern of expression among these genes appears to be unique. In this article, we show the result of an additional analysis using HTS data from a previous study, and present the hypothesis that an extremely loose chromatin structure causes promiscuous gene expression in 1-cell embryos.
The impact of deer overabundance is a worldwide problem. Along with habitat expansion and population increase, damage by sika deer to the forest ecosystem and agriculture has become a serious issue in Japan. Deer also transmit a number of diseases and parasites to humans and livestock. The overabundance of deer is a result of their strong fecundity, and therefore the present situation should, in theory, be tackled by experts in reproductive biology.
Gene-knockout pigs hold great promise as a solution to the shortage of organs from donor animals for xenotransplantation. Several groups have generated gene-knockout pigs via clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats (CRISPR)/CRISPR-associated 9 (Cas9) and somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT). Herein, we adopted a simple and micromanipulator-free method, handmade cloning (HMC) instead of SCNT, to generate double gene-knockout pigs. First, we applied the CRISPR/Cas9 system to target α1,3-galactosyltransferase (GGTA1) and cytidine monophosphate-N-acetylneuraminic acid hydroxylase (CMAH) genes simultaneously in porcine fetal fibroblast cells (PFFs), which were derived from wild-type Chinese domestic miniature Wuzhishan pigs. Cell colonies were obtained by screening and were identified by Surveyor assay and sequencing. Next, we chose the GGTA1/CMAH double-knockout (DKO) cells for HMC to produce piglets. As a result, we obtained 11 live bi-allelic GGTA1/CMAH DKO piglets with the identical phenotype. Compared to cells from GGTA1-knockout pigs, human antibody binding and antibody-mediated complement-dependent cytotoxicity were significantly reduced in cells from GGTA1/CMAH DKO pigs, which demonstrated that our pigs would exhibit reduced humoral rejection in xenotransplantation. These data suggested that the combination of CRISPR/Cas9 and HMC technology provided an efficient and new strategy for producing pigs with multiple genetic modifications.
With granulosa and theca cells, the ovaries are responsible for producing oocytes and secreting sex steroids such as estrogen and progesterone. Endoplasmic reticulum stress (ERS) plays an important role in follicle atresia and embryo implantation. In this study, goat granulosa cells were isolated from medium-sized (4–6 mm) healthy follicles. Primary granulosa cells were immortalized by transfection with human telomerase reverse transcriptase (hTERT) to establish a goat granulosa cell line (hTERT-GGCs). These hTERT-GGCs expressed hTERT and had relatively long telomeres at passage 50. Furthermore, hTERT-GGCs expressed the gonadotropin receptor genes CYP11A1, StAR, and CYP19A1, which are involved in steroidogenesis. Additionally, progesterone was detectable in hTERT-GGCs. Although the proliferation potential of hTERT-GGCs significantly improved, there was no evidence to suggest that the hTERT-GGCs are tumorigenic. In addition, thapsigargin (Tg) treatment led to a significant dose-dependent decrease in progesterone concentration and steroidogenic enzyme expression. In summary, we successfully generated a stable goat granulosa cell line. We found that Tg induced ERS in hTERT-GGCs, which reduced progesterone production and steroidogenic enzyme expression. Future studies may benefit from using this cell line as a model to explore the molecular mechanisms regulating steroidogenesis and apoptosis in goat granulosa cells.
PROP1 is a pituitary specific transcription factor that plays a crucial role in pituitary organogenesis. The Prop1 shows varied expression patterns that promptly emerge and then fade during the early embryonic period. However, the regulatory mechanisms governing Prop1 expression remain unclear. Here, we investigated whether Prop1 was under epigenetic regulation by DNA methylation. Bisulfite sequencing was performed on DNA obtained from the pituitary glands and livers of rats on embryonic days (E) 13.5 and E14.5, and postnatal days (P) 4 and P30. The methylation of CpG sites in seven regions from 3-kb upstream of the Prop1 transcription start site through to its second intron were examined. Certain differences in CpG-methylation levels were observed in Region-1 (–2772 b to –2355 b), Region-4 (–198 b to +286 b), Region-5 (+671 b to +990 b), and Region-6 (+1113 b to +1273 b) based on comparisons between pituitary and liver DNA on E13.5. DNA methylation in pituitary glands on E14.5, P4, and P30 was generally similar to that observed in in the pituitary gland on E13.5, whereas the anterior and intermediate lobes of the pituitary gland on P4 and P30 showed only small differences. These results indicate that Prop1 is under regulation by CpG methylation during the early period of pituitary primordium development around E13.5.
Genome editing using the CRISPR/Cas system can induce mutations with high efficiency, and allows easier production of genome-modified animals than that offered by the conventional method where embryonic stem cells are used. However, studies using CRISPR/Cas systems have been mostly limited to proliferating somatic cells and pronuclear-stage fertilized eggs. In contrast, the efficiency of a CRISPR/Cas system in immature and maturing oocytes progressing through meiosis has not yet been assessed. In the present study, we evaluated the genome-modification efficiency of the CRISPR/Cas system during meiotic maturation of porcine oocytes. Additionally, the localization of the Cas9 protein in immature oocytes was analyzed in relation to nuclear transport and mutation induction. The results showed that CRISPR/Cas induced mutation with high efficiency even in maturing oocytes with condensed chromosomes, whereas mutations were not induced in GV-stage oocytes. The localization analysis of enhanced green fluorescent protein (EGFP)-tagged Cas9 (Cas9-EGFP) revealed that the nuclei contained lesser Cas9 than the cytoplasm in immature oocytes. Treatment with leptomycin B, a nuclear export inhibitor, increased the amount of nuclear Cas9 and enabled mutation induction in GV oocytes. Our results suggest that CRISPR/Cas systems can be applied to oocytes during meiotic maturation and be implemented in novel applications targeting female genomes.
Cell-secreted vesicles, such as exosomes, have recently been recognized as mediators of cell communication. A recent study in cattle showed the involvement of exosome-like vesicles in the control of cumulus expansion, a prerequisite process for normal ovulation; however, whether this is the case in other mammalian species is not known. Therefore, this study aimed to examine the presence of exosome-like vesicles in ovarian follicles and their effects on cumulus expansion in vitro in pigs. The presence of exosome-like vesicles in porcine follicular fluid (pFF) was confirmed by transmission electron microscopic observation, the detection of marker proteins, and RNA profiles specific to exosomes. Fluorescently labeled exosome-like vesicles isolated from pFF were incorporated into both cumulus and mural granulosa cells in vitro. Exosome-like vesicles were not capable of inducing cumulus expansion to a degree comparable to that induced by follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH). Moreover, exosome-like vesicles had no significant effects on the expression levels of transcripts required for the normal expansion process (HAS2, TNFAIP6, and PTGS2). Interestingly, FSH-induced expression of HAS2 and TNFAIP6 mRNA, but not of PTGS2 mRNA, was significantly increased by the presence of exosome-like vesicles; however, the degree of FSH-induced expansion was not affected. In addition, porcine exosome-like vesicles had no significant effects on the expansion of mouse cumulus-oocyte complexes. Collectively, the present results suggest that exosome-like vesicles are present in pFF, but they are not efficient in inducing cumulus expansion in pigs.
In the present study, we propose an alternative technique called cytoplast fusion to improve the maturation rate and developmental competence of growing oocytes collected from early antral follicles in pigs. We examined whether the fusion of a growing oocyte with the cytoplast from a fully-grown oocyte (CFR group) could better promote maturation and developmental competence of the growing oocyte compared to germinal vesicle (GV) transfer (GVTR group). After 44 h of in vitro maturation (IVM), most growing oocytes (GR group) were still arrested at the GV stage (64.0 ± 5.1%); this number was significantly higher (P < 0.01) than that of the other groups. No matured oocyte was observed in the GR group. The maturation rate of GVTR oocytes was significantly improved (18.8 ± 3.5%) compared with that of growing oocytes. The proportion of oocytes that reached the metaphase-II (M-II) stage in the CFR group (37.8 ± 2.0%) was significantly higher (P < 0.05) than that in the GVTR group, although still lower than that in the control group (75.2 ± 4.4%). No blastocyst was derived from growing oocytes. Among in vitro fertilized GVTR oocytes, 3.0 ± 1.9% developed into blastocysts; however, this percentage showed an insignificant increase compared with the GR group. On the other hand, the percentage of CFR embryos that developed into blastocysts (12.0 ± 4.3%) was significantly higher than that of GR embryos (0.0%), although still lower than that of control embryos (27.0 ± 5.5%). Total cell number in blastocysts in the GVTR group (23.3 ± 6.9) was significantly lower (P < 0.05) than that in the control group (50.4 ± 5.0). Meanwhile, the total cell number in blastocysts derived from CFR oocytes (36.3 ± 4.8) was comparable to that of the control group. In summary, cytoplast fusion significantly improves maturation rate and developmental competence of growing oocytes compared with GV transfer.
Sperm hyperactivation is regulated by hormones present in the oviduct. In hamsters, 5-hydroxytryptamine (5HT) enhances hyperactivation associated with the 5HT2 receptor and 5HT4 receptor, while 17β-estradiol (E2) and γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA) suppress the association of the estrogen receptor and GABAA receptor, respectively. In the present study, we examined the regulatory interactions among 5HT, GABA, and E2 in the regulation of hamster sperm hyperactivation. When sperm were exposed to E2 prior to 5HT exposure, E2 did not affect 5HT-enhanced hyperactivation. In contrast, GABA partially suppressed 5HT-enhanced hyperactivation when sperm were exposed to GABA prior to 5HT. GABA suppressed 5HT-enhanced hyperactivation associated with the 5HT2 receptor although it did not suppress 5HT-enhanced hyperactivation associated with the 5HT4 receptor. These results demonstrate that hamster sperm hyperactivation is regulated by an interaction between the 5HT2 receptor-mediated action of 5HT and GABA.
Hypoxia has been suggested to enhance progesterone (P4) synthesis in luteinizing granulosa cells (GCs), but the mechanism is unclear. The present study was designed to test the hypothesis that the hypoxia-induced increase in P4 synthesis during luteinization in bovine GCs is mediated by hypoxia-inducible factor 1 (HIF-1). GCs obtained from small antral follicles were cultured with 2 µg/ml insulin in combination with 10 µM forskolin for 24 h as a model of luteinizing GCs. To examine the influence of HIF-1 on P4 synthesis, we determined the effect of changes in protein expression of the α-subunit of HIF-1 (HIF1A) on P4 production and on the expression levels of StAR, P450scc, and 3β-HSD. CoCl2 (100 µM), a hypoxia-mimicking chemical, increased HIF-1α protein expression in luteinizing GCs. After the upregulation of HIF-1α, we observed an increase in P4 production and in the gene and protein expression levels of StAR in CoCl2-treated luteinizing GCs. In contrast, CoCl2 did not affect the expression of either P450scc or 3β-HSD. Echinomycin, a small-molecule inhibitor of HIF-1’s DNA-binding activity, attenuated the effects of CoCl2 and of low oxygen tension (10% O2) on P4 production and StAR expression in luteinizing GCs. Overall, these findings suggest that HIF-1 is one of the factors that upregulate P4 in GCs during luteinization.
Previous studies showed that cultured mouse trophoblast stem cells (mTSCs) have the most rapid proliferation, normal maintenance of stemness/potency, the least spontaneous differentiation, and the lowest level of stress-activated protein kinase (SAPK) when incubated at 2% O2 rather than at the traditional 20% O2 or hypoxic (0.5% and 0% O2) conditions. Switching from 2% O2 induced fast SAPK responses. Here we tested the dose response of AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) in its active form (pAMPK Thr172P) at O2 levels from 20–0%, and also tested whether pAMPK levels show similar rapid changes when mTSC cultures were switched from the optimal 2% O2 to other O2 conditions. There was a delayed increase in pAMPK levels ~6–8 h after switching conditions from 20% to 2%, 0.5%, or 0% O2. Altering O2 conditions from 2% to either 20%, 0.5%, or 0% led to rapid increase in pAMPK levels within 1 h, similar to the previously reported SAPK response in mTSC cells removed from 2% O2. Twelve hours of 0.5% O2 exposure led to cell program changes in terms of potency loss and suppressed biosynthesis, as indicated by levels of phosphorylated inactive acetyl CoA carboxylase (pACC). Phosphorylation of ACC was inhibited by the AMPK inhibitor Compound C. However, unlike other stressors, AMPK does not mediate hypoxia-induced potency loss in mTSCs. These results suggest an important aspect of stem cell biology, which demands rapid stress enzyme activation to cope with sudden changes in external environment, e.g., from least stressful (2% O2) to more stressful conditions.
The concentration of circulating anti-Müllerian hormone (AMH) in cattle is a useful endocrine marker for ovarian response to superovulation. Although the AMH concentration undergoes little variation throughout the estrous cycle, its long-term changes remain incompletely understood. Here, we investigated the relationship between superovulation response and plasma AMH concentration in Japanese Black cattle and the long-term changes in plasma AMH concentration of embryo donor cows and heifers. The median, 25th percentile, and 75th percentile of AMH concentrations in 222 mature animals were 0.265, 0.118, and 0.488 ng/ml, respectively. The numbers of ova/embryos, fertilized embryos, and transferable embryos in a total of 295 superovulations were significantly different among the H (AMH ≥ 0.488 ng/ml), M (AMH 0.487–0.119 ng/ml), and L (AMH ≤ 0.118 ng/ml) groups. AMH concentrations during repeated superovulation in ten donor cows were significantly decreased after the third treatment. In heifers, the highest AMH concentration was observed in individuals during 2–13 months of age, with considerable individual variability. AMH concentrations of heifers at 10 or 11 months correlated with the number of ova/embryos during superovulation at 13–18 months (r = 0.641, P < 0.05). These results suggest that the 25th and 75th percentile values of AMH concentration would give a useful rough estimate of ovarian response; however, repeated superovulation may reduce the predictive accuracy of single measurements of AMH concentration. It would be possible to evaluate AMH concentration in heifers after approximately 11 months of age.
Expression regulation of the Dlk1-Dio3 imprinted domain by the intergenic differentially methylated region (IG-DMR) is essential for normal embryonic development in mammals. In this study, we investigated conserved IG-DMR genomic sequences in eutherians to elucidate their role in genomic imprinting of the Dlk1-Dio3 domain. Using a comparative genomics approach, we identified three highly conserved sequences in IG-DMR. To elucidate the functions of these sequences in vivo, we generated mutant mice lacking each of the identified highly conserved sequences using the CRISPR/Cas9 system. Although mutant mice did not exhibit the gross phenotype, deletions of the conserved sequences altered the expression levels of paternally expressed imprinted genes in the mutant embryos without skewing imprinting status. These results suggest that the conserved sequences in IG-DMR are involved in the expression regulation of some of the imprinted genes in the Dlk1-Dio3 domain.
Supplementation with lipopolysaccharide (LPS) from non-pathogenic Escherichia coli was found to enhance the adjuvant effects of a veterinary vaccine adjuvant (ISA 71VG®). Sperm immunization using 71VG as an adjuvant in the immature period induced infertility in 25% of male rats, whereas this increased to 62.5% after immunization with 71VG + LPS or Freund’s complete adjuvant (FCA). Mean testicular weight of non-sterile males in the 71VG + LPS group was significantly lower than that in the 71VG or FCA group. Histological examination of testicular tissue from sterile males demonstrated severe impairment of spermatogenesis due to experimental autoimmune orchitis, a cell-mediated autoimmune condition. The serum anti-sperm titer was elevated in the three sperm-immunized groups relative to male rats treated with adjuvant alone, but the titer was higher in the 71VG + LPS and FCA groups than in the 71VG group. We consider that this LPS-supplemented adjuvant stimulates both humoral and cell-mediated immune responses to an extent comparable to FCA.