Understanding the mechanisms underlying the first cell differentiation events in human preimplantation development is fundamental for defining the optimal conditions for IVF techniques and selecting the most viable embryos for further development. However, our comprehension of the very early events in development is still very limited. Moreover, our knowledge on early lineage specification comes primarily from studying the mouse model. It is important to recognize that although mammalian embryos share similar morphological landmarks, the timing and molecular control of developmental events may vary substantially between species. Mammalian blastocysts comprise three cell types that arise through two sequential rounds of binary cell fate decisions. During the first decision, cells located on the outside of the developing embryo form a precursor lineage for the embryonic part of the placenta: the trophectoderm and cells positioned inside the embryo become the inner cell mass (ICM). Subsequently, ICM cells differentiate into embryonic lineages that give rise to a variety of tissues in the developing foetus: either the epiblast or extraembryonic primitive endoderm. Successful formation of all three lineages is a prerequisite for implantation and development to term. A comprehensive understanding of the lineage specification processes in mammals is therefore necessary to shed light on the causes of early miscarriages and early pregnancy pathologies in humans.
Cleavage is a period after fertilization, when a 1-cell embryo starts developing into a multicellular organism. Due to a series of mitotic divisions, the large volume of a fertilized egg is divided into numerous smaller, nucleated cells—blastomeres. Embryos of different phyla divide according to different patterns, but molecular mechanism of these early divisions remains surprisingly conserved. In the present paper, we describe how polarity cues, cytoskeleton and cell-to-cell communication interact with each other to regulate orientation of the early embryonic division planes in model animals such as Caenorhabditis elegans, Drosophila and mouse. We focus particularly on the Par pathway and the actin-driven cytoplasmic flows that accompany it. We also describe a unique interplay between Par proteins and the Hippo pathway in cleavage mammalian embryos. Moreover, we discuss the potential meaning of polarity, cytoplasmic dynamics and cell-to-cell communication as quality biomarkers of human embryos.
With the worldwide move towards single embryo transfer there has been a renewed focus on the requirement for reliable means of assessing embryo viability. In an era of ‘OMICS’ technologies, and algorithms created through the use of time-lapse microscopy, the actual appearance of the human embryo as it progresses through each successive developmental stage to the blastocyst appears to have been somewhat neglected in recent years. Here we review the key features of the human preimplantation embryo and consider the relationship between morphological characteristics and developmental potential. Further, the impact of the culture environment on morphological traits, how key morphological qualities reflect aspects of embryo physiology, and how computer-assisted analysis of embryo morphology may facilitate a more quantitative approach to selection are discussed. The clinical introduction of time-lapse systems has reopened our eyes and given us a new vantage point from which to view the beauty of the initial stages of human life. Rather than a future in which the morphology of the embryo is deemed irrelevant, we propose that key features, such as multinucleation, cell size and blastocyst differentiation should be included in future iterations of selection/deselection algorithms.
Can the time-lapse system (TLS) identify the best embryo for transfer? Although there are several studies that support this hypothesis, more research is required to improve the quality of the current evidence and also to assess live birth rate, miscarriage, stillbirth or clinical pregnancy in order to choose between a TLS or conventional incubation. In addition, although some authors report on effectiveness and safety in the use of TLS monitoring of embryo development in vitro, other authors that have not found relevant differences between the two systems for the culture and subsequence embryo selection. On the other hand, TLS has emerged as a novel technology and has been introduced into clinical practice in many laboratories to perform embryo morphology evaluation and study developmental kinetics in ART. However, most studies only assess blastocyst formation or implantation rate as the primary end-point and additional data are required, for example, about live birth, monozygotic twinning rates and health problems. Furthermore, the features of populations studies are varied; for example, female and male age, seminal characteristics and female factor. The embryo culture conditions and culture medium used also vary. For this review, a search of PubMed was conducted to retrieve relevant studies regarding use of TLS in embryo incubation and selection, and compare them with standard embryo culture and evaluation.
Do the organ culture conditions, previously defined for in vitro murine male germ cell differentiation, also result in differentiation of rat spermatogonia into post-meiotic germ cells exhibiting specific markers for haploid germ cells?
We demonstrated the differentiation of rat spermatogonia into post-meiotic cells in vitro, with emphasis on exhibiting, protein markers described for round spermatids.
Full spermatogenesis in vitro from immature germ cells using an organ culture technique in mice was first reported 5 years ago. However, no studies reporting the differentiation of rat spermatogonia into post-meiotic germ cells exhibiting the characteristic protein expression profile or into functional sperm have been reported.
Organ culture of testicular fragments of 5 days postpartum (dpp) neonatal rats was performed for up to 52 days. Evaluation of microscopic morphology, testosterone levels, mRNA and protein expression as measured by RT-qPCR and immunostaining were conducted to monitor germ cell differentiation in vitro. Potential effects of melatonin, Glutamax® medium, retinoic acid and the presence of epidydimal fat tissue on the spermatogenic process were evaluated. A minimum of three biological replicates were performed for all experiments presented in this study. One-way ANOVA, ANOVA on ranks and student's t-test were applied to perform the statistical analysis.
Male germ cells, present in testicular tissue pieces grown from 5 dpp rats, exhibited positive protein expression for Acrosin and Crem (cAMP (cyclic adenosine mono phosphate) response element modulator) after 52 days of culture in vitro. Intra-testicular testosterone production could be observed after 3 days of culture, while when epididymal fat tissue was added, spontaneous contractility of cultured seminiferous tubules could be observed after 21 days. However, no supportive effect of the supplementation with any factor or the co-culturing with epididymal fat tissue on germ cell differentiation in vitro or testosterone production was observed.
The human testis is very different in physiology from the rat testis, further investigations are still needed to optimize the organ culture system for future use in humans.
The successful differentiation of undifferentiated spermatogonia using the testis explant culture system might be employed in future to produce sperm from human spermatogonia as a clinical tool for fertility preservation in boys and men suffering infertility.
This work was supported financially by the Frimurare Barnhuset in Stockholm, the Paediatric Research Foundation, Jeanssons Foundation, Sällskåpet Barnåvard in Stockholm, Swedish Research Council/Academy of Finland, Emil and Wera Cornells Foundation, Samariten Foundation, the Swedish Childhood Cancer Foundation as well as through the regional agreement on medical training and clinical research (ALF) between Stockholm County Council and Karolinska Institutet. All authors declare no conflicts of interests.
There is an unexplored physiological role of N-WASP (neural Wiskott-Aldrich syndrome protein) in oocyte maturation that prevents completion of second meiosis.
In mice, N-WASP deletion did not affect oocyte polarity and asymmetric meiotic division in first meiosis, but did impair midbody formation and second meiosis completion.
N-WASP regulates actin dynamics and participates in various cell activities through the RHO-GTPase-Arp2/3 (actin-related protein 2/3 complex) pathway, and specifically the Cdc42 (cell division cycle 42)-N-WASP-Arp2/3 pathway. Differences in the functions of Cdc42 have been obtained from in vitro compared to in vivo studies.
By conditional knockout of N-WASP in mouse oocytes, we analyzed its in vivo functions by employing a variety of different methods including oocyte culture, immunofluorescent staining and live oocyte imaging. Each experiment was repeated at least three times, and data were analyzed by paired-samples t-test.
Oocyte-specific deletion of N-WASP did not affect the process of oocyte maturation including spindle formation, spindle migration, polarity establishment and maintenance, and homologous chromosome or sister chromatid segregation, but caused failure of cytokinesis completion during second meiosis (P < 0.001 compared to control). Further analysis showed that a defective midbody may be responsible for the failure of cytokinesis completion.
The present study did not include a detailed analysis of the mechanisms underlying the results, which will require more extensive further investigations.
N-WASP may play an important role in mediating and co-ordinating the activity of the spindle (midbody) and actin (contractile ring constriction) when cell division occurs. The findings are important for understanding the regulation of oocyte meiosis completion and failures in this process that affect oocyte quality.
This work was supported by the National Basic Research Program of China (No. 2012CB944404) and the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Nos 30930065, 31371451, 31272260 and 31530049). There are no potential conflicts of interests.
Do changes in the expression of bone morphogenetic proteins (BMPs) 2 and 4, and their antagonists Gremlin1 (GREM1) and Gremlin2 (GREM2) during human fetal ovarian development impact on BMP pathway activity and lead to changes in gene expression that may influence the fate and/or function of ovarian somatic cells?
BMPs 2 and 4 differentially regulate gene expression in cultured human fetal ovarian somatic cells. Expression of some, but not all BMP target genes is antagonised by GREM1 and GREM2, indicating the existence of a mechanism to fine-tune BMP signal intensity in the ovary. Leucine-rich repeat-containing G-protein coupled receptor 5 (LGR5), a marker of immature ovarian somatic cells, is identified as a novel transcriptional target of BMP4.
Extensive re-organisation of the germ and somatic cell populations in the feto-neonatal ovary culminates in the formation of primordial follicles, which provide the basis for a female's future fertility. BMP growth factors play important roles at many stages of ovarian development and function. GREM1, an extracellular antagonist of BMP signalling, regulates the timing of primordial follicle formation in the mouse ovary, and mRNA levels of BMP4 decrease while those of BMP2 increase prior to follicle formation in the human fetal ovary.
Expression of genes encoding BMP pathway components, BMP antagonists and markers of ovarian somatic cells were determined by quantitative (q)RT-PCR in human fetal ovaries (from 8 to 21 weeks gestation) and fetal ovary-derived somatic cell cultures. Ovarian expression of GREM1 protein was confirmed by immunoblotting. Primary human fetal ovarian somatic cell cultures were derived from disaggregated ovaries by differential adhesion and cultured in the presence of recombinant human BMP2 or BMP4, with or without the addition of GREM1 or GREM2.
We demonstrate that the expression of BMP antagonists GREM1, GREM2 and CHRD increases in the lead-up to primordial follicle formation in the human fetal ovary, and that the BMP pathway is active in cultured ovarian somatic cells. This leads to differential changes in the expression of a number of genes, some of which are further modulated by GREM1 and/or GREM2. The positive transcriptional regulation of LGR5 (a marker of less differentiated somatic cells) by BMP4 in vitro suggests that increasing levels of GREM1 and reduced levels of BMP4 as the ovary develops in vivo may act to reduce LGR5 levels and allow pre-granulosa cell differentiation.
While we have demonstrated that markers of different somatic cell types are expressed in the cultured ovarian somatic cells, their proportions may not represent the same cells in the intact ovary which also contains germ cells.
This study extends previous work identifying germ cells as targets of ovarian BMP signalling, and suggests BMPs may regulate the development of both germ and somatic cells in the developing ovary around the time of follicle formation.
This work was supported by The UK Medical Research Council (Grant No.: G1100357 to RAA), and Medical Research Scotland (Grant No. 345FRG to AJC). The authors have no competing interests to declare.
2016-09-07T06:32:32-07:00STUDY QUESTION Do high oxygen tension and high glucose concentrations dysregulate p66Shc (Src homologous-collagen homologue adaptor protein) expression during mouse preimplantation embryo culture? SUMMARY ANSWER Compared with mouse blastocysts in vivo, P66Shc mRNA and protein levels in blastocysts maintained in vitro increased under high oxygen tension (21%), but not high glucose concentration. WHAT IS KNOWN ALREADY Growth in culture adversely impacts preimplantation embryo development and alters the expression levels of the oxidative stress adaptor protein p66Shc, but it is not known if p66Shc expression is linked to metabolic changes observed in cultured embryos. STUDY DESIGN, SAMPLES/MATERIALS, METHODS We used a standard wild-type CD1 mouse model of preimplantation embryo development and embryo culture with different atmospheric oxygen tension and glucose media concentrations. Changes to p66Shc expression in mouse blastocysts were measured using quantitative RT-PCR, immunoblotting and immunofluorescence followed by confocal microscopy. Changes to oxidative phosphorylation metabolism were measured by total ATP content and superoxide production. Statistical analyses were performed on a minimum of three experimental replicates using Students’ t-test or one-way ANOVA. MAIN RESULTS AND THE ROLE OF CHANCE P66Shc is basally expressed during in vivo mouse preimplantation development. Within in vivo blastocysts, p66Shc is primarily localized to the cell periphery of the trophectoderm. Blastocysts cultured under atmospheric oxygen levels have significantly increased p66Shc mRNA transcript and protein abundances compared to in vivo controls (P < 0.05). However, the ratio of phosphorylated serine 36 (S36) p66Shc to total p66Shc decreased in culture regardless of O2 atmosphere used, supporting a shift in the mitochondrial fraction of p66Shc. Total p66Shc localized to the cell periphery of the blastocyst trophectoderm and phosphorylated S36 p66Shc displayed nuclear and cytoplasmic immunoreactivity, suggesting distinct compartmentalization of phosphorylated S36 p66Shc and the remaining p66Shc fraction. Glucose concentration in the culture medium did not significantly change p66Shc mRNA or protein abundance or its localization. Blastocysts cultured under low or high oxygen conditions exhibited significantly decreased cellular ATP and increased superoxide production compared to in vivo derived embryos (P < 0.05). LIMITATIONS/REASONS FOR CAUTION This study associates embryonic p66Shc expression levels with metabolic abnormalities but does not directly implicate p66Shc in metabolic changes. Additionally, we used one formulation of embryo culture medium that differs from that used in other mouse model studies and from clinical media used to support human blastocyst development. Our findings may, therefore, be limited to this media, or may be a species-specific phenomenon. WIDER IMPLICATIONS OF THE FINDINGS This is the first study to show distinct immunolocalization of p66Shc to the trophectoderm of mouse blastocysts and that its levels are abnormally increased in embryos exposed to culture conditions. Changes in p66Shc expression and/or localization could possibly serve as a molecular marker of embryo viability for clinical applications. The outcomes provide insight into the potential metabolic role of p66Shc. Metabolic anomalies are induced even under the current optimal culture conditions, which could negatively impact trophectoderm and placental development. LARGE SCALE DATA Not applicable. STUDY FUNDING AND COMPETING INTEREST(S) Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) operating funds, Ontario Graduate Scholarship (OGS). There are no competing interests. [...]
Is inhibitor of DNA-binding protein 2 (ID2) a mediator of the transforming growth factor (TGF)-β1-induced Warburg-like effect seen in the peritoneum of women with endometriosis?
The TGF-β1-induced changes in the metabolic phenotype of peritoneal mesothelial cells from women with endometriosis are mediated through the ID2 pathway.
TGF-β1 induces the metabolic conversion of glucose to lactate via aerobic glycolysis (the ‘Warburg effect’) in the peritoneum of women with endometriosis, through increased expression of the transcription factor hypoxia inducible factor α (HIF-1α). ID proteins are transcriptional targets of TGF-β1.
Expression of ID2 was investigated in luteal phase peritoneal biopsies from women with regular menstrual cycles, with and without endometriosis (n = 8–10 each group) by quantitative RT-PCR (qRT-PCR) and immunohistochemistry. ID2 mRNA expression in primary human peritoneal mesothelial cells (HPMC) and immortalized mesothelial cells (MeT-5A) was assessed by qRT-PCR (n = 6). The effects of TGF-β1 and ID2 siRNA on HIF-1α mRNA expression and lactate secretion was assessed using qRT-PCR and a colorimetric lactate assay.
ID2 is localized to peritoneal mesothelial and stromal cells of women with and without endometriosis. ID2 mRNA expression is lower in peritoneum adjacent to the endometriosis lesions compared to distal sites (P < 0.01). Exposure of HPMC and MeT-5A cells to physiological concentrations of TGF-β1 decreases ID2 mRNA expression (P < 0.01, P < 0.001, respectively, versus control). ID2 knockdown increases HIF-1α mRNA expression (P < 0.01) and lactate secretion (P < 0.05 versus scrambled control) to the same degree as with exposure to TGF-β1.
Primary human cell cultures and a cell line were used in this study, and thus the results may not fully represent the situation in vivo. The results should also be replicated using a larger number of samples.
Novel therapeutics that target the TGFβ/ID pathway offer a potential role in the treatment of endometriosis.
This work was funded by a Wellbeing of Women research grant (R42533) awarded to A.W.H., J.K.B. and W.C.D.; and an MRC Centre Grant G1002033. V.J.Y. received grant support from Federation of Women Graduates (134225) and a PhD studentship from the College of Medicine and Veterinary Medicine at the University of Edinburgh. There are no competing interests to declare.
How do NR4A receptors drive decidualization of human endometrial stromal cells (hESCs)?
NR4A receptors modulate endometrial decidualization by transcriptional activation of FOXO1A, and in adenomyosis patients, the reduced expression of NR4A receptors in the eutopic endometrium may represent a novel mechanism to explain impaired decidualization and subfertility.
A close relationship between impaired decidualization and subfertility has been established. In human endometrial stromal cells, orphan nuclear receptor NR4A is a novel regulator of decidualization.
Eutopic endometrial tissues and hESCs from fertile controls (n = 56) and adenomyosis patients (n = 27) were collected for in vitro analysis. Primary hESCs isolated from eutopic endometrial tissues were used to evaluate the biological function of NR4A receptors. Adenovirus-mediated overexpression of NR4A and small interfering RNAs targeting NR4A, and FOXO1A were used to investigate the molecular mechanisms. Gene expression regulation was examined by real-time-quantitative PCR, immunostaining, and luciferase reporter assay. Artificial decidualization assay was performed to investigate the role of NR4A1 during decidualization in vivo.
NR4A modulates the decidualization of hESCs by upregulating prolactin (PRL) and insulin-like growth factor binding protein-1 (IGFBP-1) expression and transformation in vitro. Loss of uterine Nr4a1 results in female subfertility due to impaired decidualization. Mechanistically, NR4A binds to the nerve growth factor 1B (NGFI-B) -responsive element (NBRE) (–843 to –813) within the FOXO1A promoter region and regulates FOXO1A expression. Loss of FOXO1A significantly inhibits PRL and IGFBP-1 expression, as induced by NR4A. Moreover, the expression of NR4A and FOXO1A was lower in adenomyosis endometrial tissues compared to fertile controls, especially in stroma compartments. Ectopic NR4A expression rescued PRL and IGFBP-1 expression in adenomyotic hESCs to near-normal levels. Furthermore, PI3K/AKT signaling pathway involved in inducing NR4A expression under decidualization stimuli in hESCs and the level of p(Ser473)-AKT was significantly higher in stroma in endometrium from patients with adenomyosis.
This is an in vitro study with a small sample size, utilizing stromal cell cultures from endometrial tissues of adenomyosis patients. Furthermore, results obtained should also be confirmed in a larger data set and with adenomyosis mouse models in vivo.
Identification of a positive agonist of NR4A receptors will be critical for the improved treatment of patients with conditions of insufficient decidualization-associated infertility, such as adenomyosis and endometriosis.
This study was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (81170570, G.J.Y. 81370683, G.J.Y. 81501251, Y.J. 31571189, H.X.S. and 81571402, G.J.Y.), and a special grant for clinical medicine science of Jiangsu Province (BL2014003, H.X.S.). The authors have no conflicts of interest to declare.
Does a heterozygous mutation in AMHR2, identified in whole-exome sequencings (WES) of patients with primary ovarian insufficiency (POI), cause a defect in anti-Müllerian hormone (AMH) signaling?
The I209N mutation at the adenosine triphosphate binding domain of AMHR2 exerts dominant negative defects in the AMH signaling pathway.
Previous studies have demonstrated the associations of several sequence variants in AMH or AMHR2 with POI, but no functional assay has been performed to verify whether there was any defect on AMH signaling.
Ninety-six unrelated female Chinese Han patients were diagnosed with idiopathic POI and subjected to WES. In silico analysis was done for the sequence variants followed by molecular assays to examine the functional effects of the sequence variants in human granulosa cells. In silico analysis, immunostaining, Western analysis, genome-wide expression analysis, quantitatively polymerase chain reaction were applied to the characterization of the sequence variants.
We identified one novel heterozygous missense variant, p.Ala17Glu (A17E), in AMHR2. Subsequently, A17E and two independently reported missense variants, p.Ile209Asn (I209N) and p.Leu354Phe (L354F), were evaluated for effects on the AMH signaling pathway. In silico analysis predicted that all three variants may be deleterious. However, only one variant, I209N, showed severe defects in transducing the AMH signal as well as impaired SMAD1/5/8 phosphorylation. Furthermore, using genome-wide gene expression analysis, we identified genes whose expression was affected by the mutation, these included genes previously reported to participate in AMH signaling as well as newly identified genes. They are EMILIN2, FAM155A, GATA2, HES5, ID1, ID2, RLTPR, SMAD7, CBL, MALAT1 and SMARCA2.
Although the in vitro assays demonstrated the causative effect of I209N on AMH signaling, further studies need to validate its long-term effects on folliculogenesis and POI.
These results will aid both researchers and clinicians in understanding the molecular pathology of AMH signaling and POI to develop diagnostic assays or therapeutics approaches.
Research funding is provided by the Ministry of Science and Technology of China [2012CB944704; 2012CB966702], and the National Natural Science Foundation of China [Grant number: 31171429]. The authors declare no conflict of interest.
During the last few years a new generation of preimplantation genetic screening (PGS) has been introduced. In this paper, an overview of the different aspects of this so-called PGS 2.0 with respect to the why (what are the indications), the when (which developmental stage, i.e. which material should be studied) and the how (which molecular technique should be used) is given. With respect to the aims it is clear that PGS 2.0 can be used for a variety of indications. However, the beneficial effect of PGS 2.0 has not been proved yet in RCTs. It is clear that cleavage stage is not the optimal stage for biopsy. Almost all advocates of PGS 2.0 prefer trophectoderm biopsy. There are many new methods that allow the study of complete aneuploidy with respect to one or more of the 24 chromosomes. Because of the improved vitrification methods, selection of fresh embryos for transfer is more and more often replaced by frozen embryo transfer. The main goal of PGS has always been the improvement of IVF success. However, success is defined by different authors in many different ways. This makes it very difficult to compare the outcomes of different studies. In conclusion, the introduction of PGS 2.0 will depend on the success of the new biopsy strategies in combination with the analysis of all 24 chromosomes. It remains to be seen which approach will be the most successful and for which specific groups of patients.
2016-08-12T09:17:26-07:00STUDY QUESTION We wanted to probe the opinions and current practices on preimplantation genetic screening (PGS), and more specifically on PGS in its newest form: PGS 2.0? STUDY FINDING Consensus is lacking on which patient groups, if any at all, can benefit from PGS 2.0 and, a fortiori, whether all IVF patients should be offered PGS. WHAT IS KNOWN ALREADY It is clear from all experts that PGS 2.0 can be defined as biopsy at the blastocyst stage followed by comprehensive chromosome screening and possibly combined with vitrification. Most agree that mosaicism is less of an issue at the blastocyst stage than at the cleavage stage but whether mosaicism is no issue at all at the blastocyst stage is currently called into question. STUDY DESIGN, SAMPLES/MATERIALS, METHODS A questionnaire was developed on the three major aspects of PGS 2.0: the Why, with general questions such as PGS 2.0 indications; the How, specifically on genetic analysis methods; the When, on the ideal method and timing of embryo biopsy. Thirty-five colleagues have been selected to address these questions on the basis of their experience with PGS, and demonstrated by peer-reviewed publications, presentations at meetings and participation in the discussion. The first group of experts who were asked about ‘The Why’ comprised fertility experts, the second group of molecular biologists were asked about ‘The How’ and the third group of embryologists were asked about ‘The When’. Furthermore, the geographical distribution of the experts has been taken into account. Thirty have filled in the questionnaire as well as actively participated in the redaction of the current paper. MAIN RESULTS AND THE ROLE OF CHANCE The 30 participants were from Europe (Belgium, Germany, Greece, Italy, Netherlands, Spain, UK) and the USA. Array comparative genome hybridization is the most widely used method amongst the participants, but it is slowly being replaced by massive parallel sequencing. Most participants offering PGS 2.0 to their patients prefer blastocyst biopsy. The high efficiency of vitrification of blastocysts has added a layer of complexity to the discussion, and it is not clear whether PGS in combination with vitrification, PGS alone, or vitrification alone, followed by serial thawing and eSET will be the favoured approach. The opinions range from in favour of the introduction of PGS 2.0 for all IVF patients, over the proposal to use PGS as a tool to rank embryos according to their implantation potential, to scepticism towards PGS pending a positive outcome of robust, reliable and large-scale RCTs in distinct patient groups. LIMITATIONS, REASONS FOR CAUTION Care was taken to obtain a wide spectrum of views from carefully chosen experts. However, not all invited experts agreed to participate, which explains a lack of geographical coverage in some areas, for example China. This paper is a collation of current practices and opinions, and it was outside the scope of this study to bring a scientific, once-and-for-all solution to the ongoing debate. WIDER IMPLICATIONS OF THE FINDINGS This paper is unique in that it brings together opinions on PGS 2.0 from all different perspectives and gives an overview of currently applied technologies as well as potential future developments. It will be a useful reference for fertility specialists with an expertise outside reproductive genetics. LARGE SCALE DATA none. STUDY FUNDING AND COMPETING INTEREST(S) No specific funding was obtained to conduct this questionnaire. [...]
Epidemiological and experimental animal studies show that suboptimal environments in fetal and neonatal life exert a profound influence on physiological function and risk of diseases in adult life. The concepts of the ‘developmental programming’ and Developmental Origins of Health and Diseases (DOHaD) have become well accepted and have been applied across almost all fields of medicine. Adverse intrauterine environments may have programming effects on the crucial functions of the immune system during critical periods of fetal development, which can permanently alter the immune function of offspring. Immune dysfunction may in turn lead offspring to be susceptible to inflammatory and immune diseases in adulthood. These facts suggest that inflammatory and immune disorders might have developmental origins. In recent years, inflammatory and immune disorders have become a growing health problem worldwide. However, there is no systematic report in the literature on the developmental origins of inflammatory and immune diseases and the potential mechanisms involved. Here, we review the impacts of adverse intrauterine environments on the immune function in offspring. This review shows the results from human and different animal species and highlights the underlying mechanisms, including damaged development of cells in the thymus, helper T cell 1/helper T cell 2 balance disturbance, abnormal epigenetic modification, effects of maternal glucocorticoid overexposure on fetal lymphocytes and effects of the fetal hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal axis on the immune system. Although the phenomena have already been clearly implicated in epidemiologic and experimental studies, new studies investigating the mechanisms of these effects may provide new avenues for exploiting these pathways for disease prevention.
Can RNA sequencing of human cumulus cells (CC) reveal molecular pathways involved in the physiology of reproductive aging?
Senescent but not young CC activate gene pathways associated with hypoxia and oxidative stress.
Shifts in socioeconomic norms are resulting in larger numbers of women postponing childbearing. The reproductive potential is sharply decreased with aging, and the reasons are poorly understood. Since CCs play an integral role in oocyte maturation and direct access to human oocytes is limited, we used whole transcriptome analysis of these somatic cells to gain insights into the molecular mechanisms playing a role in follicular senescence.
Twenty CC samples (from a total of 15 patients) were obtained from oocytes of either male factor or egg donor patients. RNA sequencing and bioinformatic tools were used to identify differentially expressed genes between CCs from seven aged and eight young patients (<35 (years old) y.o. vs >40 y.o.). Quantitative-PCR and immunoflourescent staining were used for validation.
RNA sequencing identified 11 572 genes expressed in CC of both age cohorts, 45 of which were differentially expressed. In CC collected from patients >40 y.o., genes involved in the hypoxia stress response (NOS2, RORA and NR4A3), vasculature development (NR2F2, PTHLH), glycolysis (RALGAPA2 and TBC1D4) and cAMP turnover (PDE4D) were significantly overexpressed when compared with CC of patients younger than 35 y.o.
This study focused almost exclusively on assessing the genetic differences in CC transcriptome between young and older women. These genetic findings were not fully correlated with embryonic development and clinical outcome.
Our data provide a new hypothesis—follicular hypoxia—as the main mechanism leading to ovarian follicular senescence and suggest a link between cumulus cell aging and oocyte quality decay. If specific molecular findings of hypoxia would be confirmed also in oocytes, genetic platforms could screen CC for hypoxic damage and identify healthier oocytes. Protocols of ovarian stimulation in older patients could also be adjusted to diminish oocyte exposure time to hypoxic follicles.
GEO accession number: GSE81579
Funded in part by EMD Serono Grant for Fertility Innovation (GFI).
Myometrial explants represent a superior model compared with cell culture models for the study of human myometrial progesterone (P4) signalling in parturition.
Gene expression analysis showed myometrial explants closely resemble the in vivo condition and the anti-inflammatory action of P4 is not lost with labour onset.
Circulating P4 levels decline before the onset of parturition in most animals, but not in humans. This has led to the suggestion that there is a functional withdrawal of P4 action at the myometrial level prior to labour onset. However, to date, no evidence of a loss of P4 function has been provided, with studies hampered by a lack of a physiologically relevant model.
Myometrial biopsies obtained at Caesarean section were dissected into explants after a portion was immediately snap frozen (t = 0). Microarray analysis was used to compare gene expression of t = 0 with paired (i) explants, (ii) passage 4 myometrial cell cultures or (iii) the hTERT myometrial cell line. Western blotting and chemokine/cytokine assays were used to study P4 signalling in myometrial explants.
Gene expression comparison of t = 0 to the three models demonstrated that explants more closely resemble the in vivo status. At the protein level, explants maintain both P4 receptor (PR) and glucocorticoid receptor (GR) levels versus t = 0 whereas cells only maintain GR levels. Additionally, treatment with 1 µM P4 led to a reduction in interleukin-1 (IL-1) β-driven cyclooxygenase-2 in explants but not in cells. P4 signalling in explants was PR-mediated and associated with a repression of p65 and c-Jun phosphorylation. Furthermore, the anti-inflammatory action of P4 was maintained after labour onset.
There is evidence of basal inflammation in the myometrial explant model.
Myometrial explants constitute a novel model to study P4 signalling in the myometrium and can be used to further elucidate the mechanisms of P4 action in human labour.
This work was supported by grants from the Joint Research Committee of the Westminster Medical School Research Trust, Borne (No. 1067412-7; a sub-charity of the Chelsea and Westminster Health Charity) and the Imperial NIHR Biomedical Research Centre. The views expressed are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of the NHS or the Department of Health. The authors have no conflict of interest.
Do branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) influence the migration of human extravillous trophoblast (EVT) cells through changes in insulin-like growth factor-binding protein 1 (IGFBP1) production in decidual cells?
Decidua-derived IGFBP1 had a stimulating effect on migration of EVT.
IGFBP1 is abundantly secreted from human decidual cells and influences trophoblast migration in human placenta of early pregnancy. In hepatic cells, the expression of IGFBP1 is influenced by nutritional status and BCAAs regulate IGFBP1 production.
This is a laboratory-based study using human decidual cells and trophoblast cells isolated from placental tissue of early pregnancy (n = 50) and grown as primary cultures. Production of IGFBP1 from decidual cells was examined by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay and immunoblotting after incubation with or without BCAAs. EVT migration was evaluated using the media conditioned by decidual cells. The effect of conditioned media on phosphorylation of focal adhesion kinase (FAK) in EVT was also analyzed by immunoblotting. The same experiments were repeated in the presence of RGD peptide, which inhibits IGFBP1 binding to α5β1 integrin. An EVT migration assay and the immunoblotting of phosphorylated FAK were also conducted with exogenous IGFBP1. The effect of the conditioned media on cytotrophoblast cell number was also assessed using WST-1 in a cell proliferation assay.
Deprivation of BCAAs on decidual cells significantly suppressed IGFBP1 secretion (P < 0.05, versus BCAA+). Exogenous IGFBP1-stimulated EVT migration (P < 0.05) and phosphorylation of FAK (P < 0.05), and the RGD peptide inhibited these effects. EVT migration and phosphorylation of FAK were stimulated by the conditioned media, presumably by IGFBP1 in the media. RGD treatment abrogated the stimulating effects of conditioned media. The conditioned media deprived of BCAAs had suppressive effects on EVT migration (P < 0.05, versus BCAA+) and phosphorylation of FAK (P < 0.05, versus BCAA+). The conditioned media did not affect number of cytotrophoblast cells.
The conclusions are based on in vitro experiments with human decidual cells and trophoblast cells isolated from placental tissue of early pregnancy, and we were unable to ascertain whether these mechanisms actually operate in vivo. We investigated the effect of decidua-derived IGFBP1 on EVT migration, however, we cannot completely rule out the possibility that endogenous IGF could also influence cell migration.
Interruption of the BCAA supply to uterine decidual cells in early pregnancy may suppress EVT migration through reduced IGFBP1 secretion, which may be one of the pathophysiological conditions responsible for pre-eclampsia.
All funds were obtained through Kyorin University School of Medicine. The authors have no conflict of interest to declare.