Age-associated decline in oocyte quality is common in mammals. Oocytes take a long time to reach their full-grown size in large animals, and maternal physical conditions profoundly affect follicle development. Aging affects the oocyte itself as well as the surrounding environment, such as granulosa cells and follicular fluid. This review discusses age-associated changes that occur in granulosa cells and follicular fluid in cows and suggests that age-associated decline in granulosa cells and follicular fluid hampers proper oocyte development.
Summer heat stress decreases the pregnancy rate in cattle and has been thought to be associated with the early embryonic death caused by the elevation of maternal body temperature. In vitro cultures have been widely used for the evaluation of effects of heat stress on oocytes, fertilization, preimplantation, and embryonic development. Susceptibility to heat stress is present in developmental stages from oocytes to cleavage-stage (before embryonic gene activation, EGA) embryos, leading to a consequent decrease in developmental competence. On the other hand, advanced-stage embryos such as morula or blastocysts have acquired thermotolerance. The mechanism for the developmental stage-dependent change in thermotolerance is considered to be the accumulation of antioxidants in embryos in response to heat-inducible production of reactive oxygen species. The supplementation of antioxidants to the culture media has been known to neutralize the detrimental effects of heat stress. Besides, EGA could be involved in acquisition of thermotolerance in later stages of embryos. Morulae or blastocysts can repair heat-induced unfolded proteins or prevent DNA damage occurring in processes such as apoptosis. Therefore, embryo transfer (ET) that can bypass the heat-sensitive stage could be a good solution to improve the pregnancy rate under heat stress. However, frozen-thawed ET could not improve the pregnancy rate as expected. Frozen-thawed blastocysts were more sensitive to heat stress and showed less proliferation upon heat exposure, compared to fresh blastocysts. Therefore, further research is required to improve the reduction in pregnancy rates due to summer heat stress.
Conventionally, in vitro-fertilized (IVF) bovine embryos for transfer are morphologically evaluated at day 7–8 of embryo culture. This method is, however, subjective and results in unreliable selection. We previously described a novel selection system for IVF bovine blastocysts for transfer that traces the development of individual embryos with time-lapse monitoring in our specially developed microwell culture dishes (LinKID micro25). The system can noninvasively identify prognostic factors that reflect viability after transfer. By assessing a combination of identified prognostic factors —timing of the first cleavage; number of blastomeres at the end of the first cleavage; and number of blastomeres at the onset of lag-phase, which results in temporary developmental arrest during the fourth or fifth cell cycle— the pregnancy rate was improved over using conventional morphological evaluation. Time-lapse monitoring with LinKID micro25 could facilitate objective and reliable selection of healthy IVF bovine embryos. Here, we review the novel bovine embryo selection system that allows for prediction of viability after transfer.
After fertilization, the genomes derived from an oocyte and spermatozoon are in a transcriptionally silent state before becoming activated at a species-specific time. In mice, the initiation of transcription occurs at the mid-one-cell stage, which represents the start of the gene expression program. A recent RNA sequencing analysis revealed that the gene expression pattern of one-cell embryos is unique and changes dramatically at the two-cell stage. However, the mechanism regulating this alteration has not yet been elucidated. It has been shown that chromatin structure and epigenetic factors change dynamically between the one- and two-cell stages. In this article, we review the characteristics of transcription, chromatin structure, and epigenetic factors in one- and two-cell mouse embryos and discuss the involvement of chromatin structure and epigenetic factors in the alteration of transcription that occurs between these stages.
Although more than 100 imprinted genes have already been identified in the mouse and human genomes, little is known about genomic imprinting in cattle. For a better understanding of these genes in cattle, parthenogenetically activated bovine blastocysts were transferred to recipient cows to obtain parthenotes, and fibroblasts derived from a Day 40 (Day 0 being the day of parthenogenetic activation) parthenogenetic embryo (BpEFs) were successfully obtained. Bovine embryonic fibroblasts (BEFs) were also isolated from a normal fertilized embryo obtained from an artificially inseminated cow. The expression of imprinted genes was analyzed by RT-PCR. Paternally expressed genes (PEGs) in mouse (viz., IGF2, PEG3, ZAC1, NDN, DLK1, SGCE, and PEG10) were expressed in BEFs, but not in BpEFs, suggesting that these genes are also imprinted in cattle. However, other PEGs in mouse (viz., IMPACT, MAGEL2, SNRPN, and PEG1/MEST) were expressed in both BEFs and BpEFs. These genes may not be imprinted in BEFs. The expression of seven maternally expressed genes in mouse was also analyzed, and only CDKN1C was not expressed in BpEFs. The DNA methylation patterns of repetitive elements (Satellite I, Satellite II, alpha-satellite, and Art2) were not different between the BEFs and BpEFs; however, the differentially methylated region (DMR) of paternally methylated H19 was hypomethylated, whereas those of maternally methylated PEG3 and PEG10 were hypermethylated in BpEFs, as expected. The methylation of the SNRPN DMR was not different between the BEFs and BpEFs, in accordance with the SNRPN expression levels in both cell types. The XIST gene, which is essential for X chromosome inactivation in females, was expressed in BpEFs, whereas its DMR was half-methylated, suggesting that X chromosome inactivation is normal in these cells. Microarray analysis was also applied to identify novel PEGs that should be expressed only in BEFs but not in BpEFs. More than 300 PEG candidate genes, including IGF2, PEG3, and PEG10, were obtained. These results illustrate the epigenetic characteristic of bovine parthenogenetic embryos and contribute to the identification of novel imprinted genes in cattle.
The development of an effective program that combines in vitro maturation (IVM) and cryopreservation for immature oocytes would represent a novel advance for in vitro fertilization (IVF), especially as a means to preserve the fertility of women in unique situations. The aim of this study was to analyze the ultrastructural characteristics of human oocytes, obtained after controlled ovarian stimulation, to determine whether IVM is best performed before or after vitrification. To this end, we analyzed the following features in a total of 22 MII oocytes: size, zona pellucida and perivitelline space, mitochondria number, M-SER (mitochondria-smooth endoplasmic reticulum) aggregates and M-V (mitochondria-vesicle) complexes, the number of cortical granules and microvilli, and the presence of vacuolization using transmission electron microscopy (TEM). Each oocyte presented a rounded shape, with an intact oolemma, and was surrounded by a continuous zona pellucida and perivitelline space. Statistical analysis comparing oocytes vitrified before or after IVM indicated that there were no significant differences between examined characteristics.
LSM family member 14 (LSM14) belongs to the RNA-associated protein (RAP) family that is widely expressed in different species, and whose functions include associating and storing mRNAs. In the present study, we found that LSM14b was essential for oocyte meiotic maturation. Lack of LSM14b caused oocyte meiotic arrest at metaphase, and misalignment of chromosomes, as well as abnormal spindle assembly checkpoint (SAC) and maturation promoting factor (MPF) activation. Cyclin B1 and Cdc20 mRNAs, whose contents changed with LSM14b expression, were likely direct targets of LSM14b. We conclude that LSM14b, by functioning as a container of mRNAs, controls protein expression, and thus regulates the oocyte meiotic maturation process.
This study assessed the effects of gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) treatment on Day 5 (Day 0 = estrus) on luteal blood flow and accuracy of pregnancy prediction in recipient cows. On Day 5, 120 lactating Holstein cows were randomly assigned to a control group (n = 63) or GnRH group treated with 100 μg of GnRH agonist (n = 57). On Days 3, 5, 7, and 14, each cow underwent ultrasound examination to measure the blood flow area (BFA) and time-averaged maximum velocity (TAMV) at the spiral arteries at the base of the corpus luteum using color Doppler ultrasonography. Cows with a corpus luteum diameter ≥ 20 mm (n = 120) received embryo transfers on Day 7. The BFA values in the GnRH group were significantly higher than those in the control group on Days 7 and 14. TAMV did not differ between these groups. According to receiver operating characteristic analyses to predict pregnancy, a BFA cutoff of 0.52 cm2 yielded the highest sensitivity (83.3%) and specificity (90.5%) on Day 7, and BFA and TAMV values of 0.94 cm2 and 44.93 cm/s, respectively, yielded the highest sensitivity (97.1%) and specificity (100%) on Day 14 in the GnRH group. The areas under the curve for the paired BFA and TAMV in the GnRH group were 0.058 higher than those in the control group (0.996 and 0.938, respectively; P < 0.05). In conclusion, GnRH treatment on Day 5 increased the luteal BFA in recipient cows on Days 7 and 14, and improved the accuracy of pregnancy prediction on Day 14.
Maternal obesity is a major risk factor for pregnancy complications, causing inflammatory cytokine release in the placenta, including interleukin-1β (IL-1β), IL-6, and IL-8. Pregnant women with obesity develop accelerated systemic and placental inflammation with elevated circulating advanced glycation end products (AGEs). IL-1β is a pivotal inflammatory cytokine associated with obesity and pregnancy complications, and its production is regulated by NLR family pyrin domain-containing 3 (NLRP3) inflammasomes. Here, we investigated whether AGEs are involved in the activation of NLRP3 inflammasomes using human placental tissues and placental cell line. In human placental tissue cultures, AGEs significantly increased IL-1β secretion, as well as IL-1β and NLRP3 mRNA expression. In human placental cell culture, although AGE treatment did not stimulate IL-1β secretion, AGEs significantly increased IL-1β mRNA expression and intracellular IL-1β production. After pre-incubation with AGEs, nano-silica treatment (well known as an inflammasome activator) increased IL-1β secretion in placental cells. However, after pre-incubation with lipopolysaccharide to produce pro-IL-1β, AGE treatment did not affect IL-1β secretion in placental cells. These findings suggest that AGEs stimulate pro-IL-1β production within placental cells, but do not activate inflammasomes to stimulate IL-1β secretion. Furthermore, using pharmacological inhibitors, we demonstrated that AGE-induced inflammatory cytokines are dependent on MAPK/NF-κB/AP-1 signaling and reactive oxygen species production in placental cells. In conclusion, AGEs regulate pro-IL-1β production and inflammatory responses, resulting in the activation of NLRP3 inflammasomes in human placenta. These results suggest that AGEs, as an endogenous and sterile danger signal, may contribute to chronic placental cytokine production.
Kisspeptin, which is encoded by the Kiss1 gene, and its receptor, the G protein-coupled receptor 54 (Kiss1r), play important roles in the regulation of reproductive functions in mammals. Several studies have shown that the Kiss1 and Kiss1r genes are expressed in the rat, primate, and human ovaries, and that the ovarian kisspeptin system plays a pivotal role in ovulation at the proestrous stage in adulthood. The purpose of this study was to evaluate development-related changes in the expression of ovarian Kiss1 and Kiss1r genes and in kisspeptin levels, and to identify the regulatory factors for these genes during the prepubertal period. The serum kisspeptin level was also measured to examine whether ovarian kisspeptin affects serum kisspeptin levels. Variations in the ovarian Kiss1 and Kiss1r mRNA levels were observed during the prepubertal period in female rats, with levels peaking around postnatal days 20 and 15, respectively. Nevertheless, the ovarian kisspeptin content per total protein level was stably maintained. Serum kisspeptin levels at postnatal days 30 and 35 were higher than those at earlier postnatal days. The pattern of the ovarian Kiss1 mRNA levels was similar to that of the serum luteinizing hormone (LH) levels, and the ovarian Kiss1 mRNA level increased after injection with human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG) on postnatal day 20, but not on postnatal days 10 and 30. These data indicate that ovarian Kiss1 and Kiss1r mRNA levels are increased on postnatal days 20 and 15, respectively, and that changes in the serum LH level and the ovarian sensitivity to LH may be involved in the alteration of ovarian Kiss1 mRNA levels.
Global DNA hypomethylation has been shown to be involved in the pluripotency of induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells. Relatedly, DNA methyltransferases (DNMTs) are believed to be a substantial barrier to genome-wide demethylation. There are two distinct stages of DNMT expression during iPS cell generation. In the earlier stage of reprogramming, the expression of DNMTs is repressed to overcome epigenetic barriers. During the late stage, the expression of DNMTs is upregulated to ensure iPS cells obtain the full pluripotency required for further development. This fact is strongly reminiscent of microRNAs (miRNAs), critical regulators of precise gene expression, may be central to coordinate the expression of DNMTs during reprogramming. Using a secondary inducible system, we found that miR-6539 had a unique expression dynamic during iPS cell generation that inversely correlated with DNMT3B protein levels. Enforced upregulation of miR-6539 during the early stage of reprogramming increased the efficiency of iPS cell generation, while enforced downregulation impaired efficiency. Further analysis showed that Dnmt3b mRNA is the likely target of miR-6539. Notably, miR-6539 repressed Dnmt3b translation via a target site located in the coding sequence. Our study has therefore identified miR-6539 as a novel mediator of somatic cell reprogramming and, to the best of our knowledge, is the first to demonstrate miRNA-mediated translation inhibition in somatic cell reprogramming via targeting the coding sequence. Our study contributes to understand the mechanisms that underlie the miRNA-mediated epigenetic remodeling that occurs during somatic cell reprogramming.
Recent observations suggest that the bovine uterus starts to react to the early embryo immediately after its arrival from the oviduct. The present study aimed to investigate the effect of the early developing embryo on the immune-related gene profile in bovine uterine epithelial cells (BUECs) in vitro, and to further examine the impact of conditioned media (CM), either from embryo-BUEC co-culture or embryo culture alone, on gene expression in peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs). First, BUECs were co-cultured with morulae (n = 10) for D5-D9 (D0 = IVF), and gene expression in BUECs was analyzed. Subsequently, PBMCs were cultured in CM from embryo-BUEC co-culture or D5-D9 embryo culture, and gene expression was evaluated. In BUECs, the embryo induced interferon (IFN)-stimulated genes (ISGs: ISG15, OAS1, and MX2), a key factor for IFN-signaling (STAT1), and type-1 IFN receptors (IFNAR1 and IFNAR2), with suppression of NFkB2, NFkBIA and pro-inflammatory cytokines (TNFA and IL1B). The embryo also stimulated PTGES and PGE2 secretion in BUECs. In PBMCs, both CM from embryo-BUEC co-culture and embryo culture alone induced ISGs, STAT1 and TGFB1, while suppressing TNFA and IL17. Similarly, interferon tau (IFNT) at 100 pg/ml suppressed NFkB2, TNFA and IL1B in BUECs, and also stimulated TGFB1 and suppressed TNFA in PBMCs. Our findings suggest that the bovine embryo, in the first four days in the uterus (D5-D9), starts to induce an anti-inflammatory response in epithelial cells and in immune cells. IFNT is likely to act as one of the intermediators for induction of the anti-inflammatory response in the bovine uterus.