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Preview: Human Reproduction Update - Advance Access

Human Reproduction Update Advance Access

Published: Wed, 20 Sep 2017 00:00:00 GMT

Last Build Date: Fri, 22 Sep 2017 02:48:34 GMT


The epidermal growth factor network: role in oocyte growth, maturation and developmental competence


The LH surge induces great physiological changes within the preovulatory follicle, which culminate in the ovulation of a mature oocyte that is capable of supporting embryo and foetal development. However, unlike mural granulosa cells, the oocyte and its surrounding cumulus cells are not directly responsive to LH, indicating that the LH signal is mediated by secondary factors produced by the granulosa cells. The mechanisms by which the oocyte senses the ovulatory LH signal and hence prepares for ovulation has been a subject of considerable controversy for the past four decades. Within the last 15 years several significant insights have been made into the molecular mechanisms orchestrating oocyte development, maturation and ovulation. These findings centre on the epidermal growth factor (EGF) pathway and the role it plays in the complex signalling network that finely regulates oocyte maturation and ovulation.
This review outlines the role of the EGF network during oocyte development and regulation of the ovulatory cascade, and in particular focuses on the effect of the EGF network on oocyte developmental competence. Application of this new knowledge to advances in ART is examined.
The PubMed database was used to search for peer-reviewed original and review articles concerning the EGF network. Publications offering a comprehensive description of the role of the EGF network in follicle and oocyte development were used.
It is now clear that acute upregulation of the EGF network is an essential component of the ovulatory cascade as it transmits the LH signal from the periphery of the follicle to the cumulus-oocyte complex (COC). More recent findings have elucidated new roles for the EGF network in the regulation of oocyte development. EGF signalling downregulates the somatic signal 3′5′-cyclic guanine monophosphate that suppresses oocyte meiotic maturation and simultaneously provides meiotic inducing signals. The EGF network also controls translation of maternal transcripts in the quiescent oocyte, a process that is integral to oocyte competence. As a means of restricting the ovulatory signal to the Graffian follicle, most COCs in the ovary are unresponsive to EGF-ligands. Recent studies have revealed that development of a functional EGF signalling network in cumulus cells requires dual endocrine (FSH) and oocyte paracrine cues (growth differentiation factor 9 and bone morphogenetic protein 15), and this occurs progressively in COCs during the last stages of folliculogenesis. Hence, a new concept to emerge is that cumulus cell acquisition of EGF receptor responsiveness represents a developmental hallmark in folliculogenesis, analogous to FSH-induction of LH receptor signalling in mural granulosa cells. Likewise, this event represents a major milestone in the oocyte’s developmental progression and acquisition of developmental competence. It is now clear that EGF signalling is perturbed in COCs matured in vitro. This has inspired novel concepts in IVM systems to ameliorate this perturbation, resulting in improved oocyte developmental competence.
An oocyte of high quality is imperative for fertility. Elucidating the fundamental molecular and cellular mechanims by which the EGF network regulates oocyte maturation and ovulation can be expected to open new opportunities in ART. This knowledge has already led to advances in oocyte IVM in animal models. Translation of such advances into a clinical setting should increase the efficacy of IVM, making it a viable treatment option for a wide range of patients, thereby simplifying fertility treatment and bringing substantial cost and health benefits.

How effective are weight-loss interventions for improving fertility in women and men who are overweight or obese? A systematic review and meta-analysis of the evidence


The prevalence of obesity is increasing worldwide, with a corresponding increase in overweight and obese patients referred with infertility. This systematic review aimed to determine whether non-surgical weight reduction strategies result in an improvement in reproductive parameters affected by obesity, e.g. delayed time to pregnancy, oligozoospermia and azoospermia. No prior reviews have examined this within the general fertility population, or in both sexes.
Our objective was to answer the question: ‘In overweight and obese women, men and couples seeking fertility treatment, what non-surgical weight-loss interventions have been used, and how effective are they at weight loss and improving reproductive outcomes?’
An electronic search of MEDLINE, EMBASE and the Cochrane Library was performed for studies between January 1966 and March 2016. Text word and MESH search terms used related to infertility, weight and barriers to weight loss. Inclusion criteria were an intervention to change lifestyle evaluated in any study design in participants of either gender with an unfulfilled desire to conceive. Studies were excluded if they included participants not attempting pregnancy, with illnesses that might cause weight fluctuations, or studies evaluating bariatric surgery. Two reviewers performed data extraction and quality assessment using the Cochrane Risk of Bias Tool for randomized trials, and a ratified checklist (ReBIP) for non-randomized studies.
A total of 40 studies were included, of which 14 were randomised control trials. Primary outcomes were pregnancy, live birth rate and weight change. In women, reduced calorie diets and exercise interventions were more likely than control interventions to result in pregnancy [risk ratio 1.59, 95% CI (1.01, 2.50)], and interventions resulted in weight loss and ovulation improvement, where reported. Miscarriage rates were not reduced by any intervention.
Overweight and obese persons seeking fertility should be educated on the detrimental effects of fatness and the benefits of weight reduction, including improvement in pregnancy rates. A combination of a reduced calorie diet, by reducing fat and refined carbohydrate intake, and increased aerobic exercise should form the basis of programmes designed for such individuals. A lack of randomized studies in men and couples, and studies evaluating barriers to undertaking weight loss in infertile populations is evident, and future research should examine these issues further.