The relaxin-like factor (RLF), which is the product of the insulin-like factor 3 (INSL3) gene, is a new circulating peptide hormone of the relaxin-insulin family. In male mammals, it is a major secretory product of the testicular Leydig cells, where it appears to be expressed constitutively but in a differentiation-dependent manner. In the adult testis, RLF expression is a good marker for fully differentiated adult-type Leydig cells, but it is only weakly expressed in prepubertal immature Leydig cells or in Leydig cells that have become hypertrophic or transformed. It is also an important product of the fetal Leydig cell population, where it has been demonstrated using knockout mice to be responsible for the second phase of testicular descent acting on the gubernaculum. INSL3 knockout mice are cryptorchid, and in estrogen-induced cryptorchidism, RLF levels in the testis are significantly reduced. RLF is also made in female tissues, particularly in the follicular theca cells of small antral follicles and in the corpus luteum of the cycle and pregnancy. The ruminant ovary has a very high level of RLF expression, and analysis of primary cultures of ovarian theca-lutein cells indicated that, as in the testis, expression is probably constitutive but differentiation dependent. Female INSL3 knockout mice have altered estrous cycles, where RLF may be involved in follicle selection, an idea strongly supported by observations on bovine secondary follicles. Recently, a novel 7-transmembrane domain receptor (LGR8 or Great) has been tentatively identified as the RLF receptor, and its deletion in mice leads also to cryptorchidism.
Numerous studies have shown the presence of DNA strand breaks in human ejaculated spermatozoa. The nature of this nuclear anomaly and its relationship to patient etiology is however poorly understood. The aim of this study was to investigate the relationship between nuclear DNA damage, assessed using the TUNEL assay and a number of key apoptotic markers, including Fas, Bcl-x, and p53, in ejaculated human spermatozoa from men with normal and abnormal semen parameters. We also determined the nature of the DNA damage by examining the percentage of ejaculated spermatozoa exhibiting DNA damage using the comet assay and by challenging sperm chromatin to attack by micrococcal nuclease S7 and DNase I. We show that TUNEL positivity and apoptotic markers do not always exist in unison; however, semen samples that had a low sperm concentration and poor morphology were more likely to show high levels of TUNEL positivity and Fas and p53 expression. In addition, the DNA damage in ejaculated human sperm is represented by both single- and double-stranded DNA breaks, and access to the DNA is restricted by the compacted nature of ejaculated spermatozoa. This DNA protection is poorer in men with abnormal semen parameters. We propose that the presence of DNA damage is not directly linked to an apoptotic process occurring in spermatozoa and arises due to problems in the nuclear remodeling process. Subsequently, the presence of apoptotic proteins in ejaculated spermatozoa may be linked to defects in cytoplasmic remodeling during the later stages of spermatogenesis.
Endocrine-disrupting chemicals, known to be present in the environment, have great potential for interfering with reproductive health in wildlife and humans. There is, however, little direct evidence that endocrine disruption has adversely affected fertility in any organism. In freshwater and estuarine fish species, for example, although a widespread incidence of intersex has been reported, it is not yet known if intersexuality influences reproductive success. The purpose of this study was, therefore, to determine gamete quality in wild intersex roach ( Rutilus rutilus ) by assessing sperm characteristics, fertilization success, and ability to produce viable offspring. The results clearly demonstrate that gamete production is reduced in intersex roach. A significantly lower proportion of moderately or severely feminized fish (17.4% and 33.3%, respectively) were able to release milt compared with normal male fish from contaminated rivers (in which 97.6% of the males were able to release milt), reference male fish (97.7%), or less severely feminized intersex fish (experiment 1: 85.8%, experiment 2: 97%). Intersex fish that did produce milt produced up to 50% less (in terms of volume per gram of testis weight) than did histologically normal male fish. Moreover, sperm motility (percentage of motile sperm and curvilinear velocity) and the ability of sperm to successfully fertilize eggs and produce viable offspring were all reduced in intersex fish compared with normal male fish. Male gamete quality (assessed using sperm motility, sperm density, and fertilization success) was negatively correlated with the degree of feminization in intersex fish ( r = â0.603; P < 0.001) and was markedly reduced in severely feminized intersex fish by as much as 50% in terms of motility and 75% in terms of fertilization success when compared with either less severely feminized intersex fish or unaffected male fish. This is the first evidence documenting a relationship between the morphological effects (e.g., intersex) of endocrine disruption and the reproductive capabilities of any wild vertebrate. The results suggest that mixtures of endocrine-disrupting substances discharged into the aquatic environment could pose a threat to male reproductive health.
Disruption in gonadal development of wild roach living in U.K. rivers receiving large volumes of treated sewage effluent is manifest in a variety of ways, ranging from malformation of the germ cells and/or reproductive ducts to altered gamete production. Intersex fish were also found to have an altered endocrine status and an elevated concentration of plasma vitellogenin. Gonadal growth was inhibited only in severely intersex fish, whereas progression of spermatogenesis was delayed in a large proportion of all intersex and exposed male fish. In contrast to the effects observed in the intersex and exposed male fish, the maturation of ovaries in female fish inhabiting effluent-contaminated rivers appeared to be less obviously affected, although a higher incidence of oocyte atresia was found in the effluent-exposed fish compared with the reference fish. A positive correlation was found between the proportion of female tissue in the gonads of intersex fish and their plasma vitellogenin concentration, suggesting that vitellogenin can be an indicator for the level of gonadal disruption in intersex roach. The estradiol-17Î² concentration in intersex fish was intermediate between the concentration found in males and females, and the plasma testosterone was between 2- and 3-fold higher in intersex fish compared with male fish. These data suggest a link between altered endocrine status in intersex and female fish and gonadal disruption. Spermiation was also affected in roach living in effluent-impacted rivers: a lower proportion of fish were found releasing sperm, and in those intersex fish that were spermiating, a reduced milt volume and a reduced sperm density were found. All intersex fish had malformations of the reproductive duct(s), and in severely affected fish, the ducts were occluded, thus preventing release of gametes. In view of the widespread occurrence of intersexuality in wild fish populations in rivers throughout the United Kingdom, assessment of the reproductive capabilities of these intersex roach is clearly needed to understand the impact of this phenomenon on roach fertility.
Proinflammatory cytokines are implicated in the initiation and progression of human labor and delivery, particularly in relation to infection-induced preterm labor. In nongestational tissues, the nuclear factor kappa B (NF-ÎºB) transcription pathway is a key regulator of proinflammatory cytokine release. In these tissues, sulfasalazine (SASP), through its ability to inhibit NF-ÎºB activation, inhibits release of interleukin (IL)-2, IL-12, and tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-Î±. Therefore, the aim of this study was to investigate whether or not NF-ÎºB activation regulates the formation of proinflammatory cytokines in human gestational tissues. Human placenta, amnion, and choriodecidua (n = 9 separate placentas) were incubated with 10 Î¼g/ml of lipopolysaccharide (LPS) in the absence (control) or presence of SASP (0.1, 1, 5, or 10 mM). After 6 h of incubation, the tissues were collected, and NF-ÎºB DNA binding activity in nuclear extracts was assessed by electromobility shift binding assay. The incubation medium was collected and the release of IL-6, IL-8, and TNF-Î± was quantified by ELISA. Treatment of placenta, amnion, and choriodecidua with SASP at concentrations 5 mM or greater significantly inhibited the release of IL-6, IL-8, and TNF-Î±, and NF-ÎºB activation (ANOVA, P < 0.05). The data presented in this study demonstrate that the NF-ÎºB transcription pathway is a key regulator of LPS-stimulated IL-6, IL-8, and TNF-Î± release from human gestational tissues. The control of NF-ÎºB activation may therefore provide an alternative therapeutic strategy for reducing the release of proinflammatory mediators in infection associated preterm labor.
The large offspring syndrome (LOS) is observed in bovine and ovine offspring following transfer of in vitro-produced (IVP) or cloned embryos and is characterized by a multitude of pathologic changes, of which extended gestation length and increased birthweight are predominant features. In the present study, we used bovine blastocysts to analyze cellular parameters, i.e., the number of cells in Day 7 blastocysts and the size of Day 12 elongating blastocysts, and molecular parameters, i.e., the relative abundance of developmentally important genes: glucose transporter (Glut) 1, Glut-2, Glut-3, Glut-4, heat shock protein (Hsp) 70.1, Cu/Zn-superoxide dismutase (SOD), histone H4.1, basic fibroblast growth factor (bFGF), insulin-like growth factor (IGF) I receptor (R), and IGFII-R. Some blastocysts were produced by in vitro maturation and fertilization followed by in vitro culture in synthetic oviduct fluid medium supplemented with BSA or human serum or by in vivo culture in the sheep oviduct. Other blastocysts were derived in vivo from the uterine horns of superovulated donors. The findings made in the early embryos were related to a representative number of calves obtained from each production system and from artificial insemination (AI). In vitro culture of bovine embryos in the presence of high concentrations of serum or BSA significantly increased the number of cells in Day 7 blastocysts, the size of blastocysts on Day 12, and the relative abundance of the transcripts for Hsp70.1, Cu/Zn-SOD, Glut-3, Glut-4, bFGF, and IGFI-R when compared with embryos from the in vivo production groups. Birthweights of calves derived from IVP embryos were significantly higher than those of calves derived from sheep oviduct culture, superovulation, or AI. The results support the hypothesis that persistence of early deviations in development is causally involved in the incidence of LOS, in particular in increased birthweights. The cellular and molecular parameters analyzed in this study can be considered early markers of LOS in cattle.
Abstract Somatic cell nuclear transfer was used to produce live piglets from cultured fetal fibroblast cells. This was achieved by exposing donor cell nuclei to oocyte cytoplasm for approximately 3 h before activation by chemical means. Initially, an experiment was performed to optimize a cell fusion system that prevented concurrent activation in the majority of recipient cytoplasts. Cultured fibroblast cells were fused in medium with or without calcium into enucleated oocytes flushed from superovulated gilts. Cybrids fused in the presence of calcium cleaved at a significantly (P < 0.05) greater rate (69%, 37 out of 54) after 2 days of culture compared with those fused without calcium (10%, 7 out of 73), suggesting that calcium-free conditions are needed to avoid activation in the majority of recipient cytoplasts during fusion. In the second experiment, cybrids fused in calcium-free medium were activated approximately 3 h later with ionomycin, followed by incubation in 6-dimethylaminopurine to determine d...
There are two estrogen receptor (ER) subtypes in fish, ERÎ± and ERÎ², and increasing evidence that the ERÎ² subtype has more than one form. However, there is little information on the characteristics and functional significance of these ERs in adults and during development. Here, we report the cloning and characterization of three functional ER forms, zfERÎ±, zfERÎ²1, and zfERÎ²2, in the zebrafish. The percentages of identity between these receptors suggest the existence of three distinct genes. Each cDNA encoded a protein that specifically bound estradiol with a dissociation constant ranging from 0.4 nM (zfERÎ²2) to 0.75 nM (zfERÎ± and zfERÎ²1). In transiently transfected cells, all three forms were able to induce, in a dose-dependent manner, the expression of a reporter gene driven by a consensus estrogen responsive element; zfERÎ²2 was slightly more sensitive than zfERÎ± and zfERÎ²1. Tissue distribution pattern, analyzed by reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction, showed that the three zfER mRNAs largely overlap and are predominantly expressed in brain, pituitary, liver, and gonads. In situ hybridization was performed to study in more detail the distribution of the three zfER mRNAs in the brain of adult females. The zfER mRNAs exhibit distinct but partially overlapping patterns of expression in two neuroendocrine regions, the preoptic area and the mediobasal hypothalamus. The characterization of these zfERs provides a new perspective for understanding the mechanisms underlying estradiol actions in a vertebrate species commonly used for developmental studies.
Using reverse transcriptase-amplified fragment length polymorphism (RT-AFLP) analysis of differential mRNA expression and semiquantitative reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction, we compared mRNA expression in bovine blastocysts from 4 sources, known to differ in quality in terms of their ability to withstand cryopreservation: 1) in vitro culture in synthetic oviduct fluid of in vitro-matured (IVM)/in vitro fertilized (IVF) zygotes; 2) in vitro culture in TCM-199 supplemented with granulosa cells (coculture) of IVM/IVF zygotes; 3) in vivo culture in the ewe oviduct of IVM/IVF zygotes; or 4) superovulation, artificial insemination, and nonsurgical embryo recovery. Total mRNA was isolated from pools of blastocysts and reverse transcription was performed. Triplicate reactions from each sample were displayed, and only consistent banding variations were recorded. Using AFLP-differential display assay, we found that cDNA banding patterns are highly conserved between the 4 groups of blastocysts studied; however, there was a difference of 7% in bands either missing or expressed across the groups. Fifty bands were reamplified, and a sequence comparison search revealed similarity of 14 isolated fragments to ribosomal and mitochondrial genes, 16 matched to described cDNA, and 20 corresponded to unknown sequences that may represent novel genes. The study of 7 differentially expressed mRNAs known to be involved in developmental process in the embryo suggests roles for apoptosis, oxidative stress, gap junctions, and differentiation in the determination of embryo quality. The aberrant transcription patterns detected in in vitro-produced bovine embryos compared with those produced in vivo may explain their reduced quality in terms of viability after cryopreservation.
The aim of this study was to test the hypothesis that both growth differential factor 9 (GDF9) and bone morphogenetic protein (BMP15; also known as GDF9B) are essential for normal ovarian follicular development in mammals with a low ovulation rate phenotype. Sheep (9â10 per group) were immunized with keyhole limpet hemocyanin (KLH; control), a GDF9-specific peptide conjugated to KLH (GDF9 peptide), a BMP15-specific peptide conjugated to KLH (BMP15 peptide), or the mature region of oBMP15 conjugated to KLH (oBMP15 mature protein) for a period of 7 mo and the effects of these treatments on various ovarian parameters such as ovarian follicular development, ovulation rate, and plasma progesterone concentrations evaluated. Also in the present study, we examined, by immunohistochemistry, the cellular localizations of GDF9 and BMP15 proteins in the ovaries of lambs. Both GDF9 and BMP15 proteins were localized specifically within ovarian follicles to the oocyte, thereby establishing for the sheep that the oocyte is the only intraovarian source of these growth factors. Immunization with either GDF9 peptide or BMP15 peptide caused anovulation in 7 of 10 and 9 of 10 ewes, respectively, when assessed at ovarian collection. Most ewes (7 of 10) immunized with oBMP15 mature protein had a least one observable estrus during the experimental period, and ovulation rate at this estrus was higher in these ewes compared with those immunized with KLH alone. In both the KLH-GDF9 peptide- and KLH-BMP15 peptide-treated ewes, histological examination of the ovaries at recovery (i.e., â¼7 mo after the primary immunization) showed that most animals had few, if any, normal follicles beyond the primary (i.e., type 2) stage of development. In addition, abnormalities such as enlarged oocytes surrounded by a single layer of flattened and/or cuboidal granulosa cells or oocyte-free nodules of granulosa cells were often observed, especially in the anovulatory ewes. Passive immunization of ewes, each given 100 ml of a pool of plasma from the GDF9 peptide- or BMP15 peptide-immunized ewes at 4 days before induction of luteal regression also disrupted ovarian function. The ewes given the plasma against the GDF9 peptide formed 1â2 corpora lutea but 3 of 5 animals did not display normal luteal phase patterns of progesterone concentrations. The effect of plasma against the BMP15 peptide was more dramatic, with 4 of 5 animals failing to ovulate and 3 of 5 ewes lacking surface-visible antral follicles at laparoscopy. By contrast, administration of plasma against KLH did not affect ovulation rate or luteal function in any animal. In conclusion, these findings support the hypothesis that, in mammals with a low ovulation rate phenotype, both oocyte-derived GDF9 and BMP15 proteins are essential for normal follicular development, including both the early and later stages of growth.