Epididymosomes are small membrane vesicles that are secreted by epididymal epithelial cells and are involved in posttesticular sperm maturation. Although their role in protein transfer to the sperm membrane is well documented, we report their capacity to transport microRNAs (miRNAs), which are potent regulators of posttranscriptional gene expression. Using a microperfusion technique combined with a global microarray approach, we demonstrated that epididymosomes from two discrete bovine epididymal regions (caput and cauda) possess distinct miRNA signatures. In addition, we also established that miRNA repertoires contained within epididymosomes differ from those of their parent epithelial cells, suggesting that miRNA populations released from the cells may be selectively sorted. Binding of DilC12-labeled epididymosomes to primary cultured epididymal cells was measured by flow cytometry, and the results indicated that epididymosomes from the median caput and their miRNA content may be incorporated into distal caput epithelial cells. Overall, these findings reveal that distinct miRNA repertoires are released into the intraluminal fluid in a region-specific manner and could be involved in a novel mechanism of intercellular communication throughout the epididymis via epididymosomes.
Trophectoderm (TE) biopsy and DNA microarray have become the new technologies for preimplantation genetic diagnosis in humans. In this study, we comprehensively examined aneuploid formation in human blastocysts produced in vitro with microarray and investigated the clinical outcome after transfer of euploid embryos. Biopsied cells from either TE or inner cell mass (ICM) were processed for microarray to examine the errors in 23 pairs of chromosomes and the consistency between TE and ICM. It was found that 56.6% of blastocysts were aneuploid. Further analysis indicated that 62.3% of aneuploid blastocysts had single and 37.7% had multiple chromosomal abnormalities. Chromosome errors could occur in any chromosome, but errors in chromosome 21 accounted for the most (11.3%) among the 23 pairs of chromosomes. Transfer of array-screened blastocysts produced high pregnancy (70.2%) and implantation (63.5%) rates. Microarray of TE and ICM cells in the same blastocysts revealed that high proportions of aneuploid blastocysts (69.2%) were mosaic, including aneuploid TE and euploid ICM, inconsistent anomalies between ICM and TE, or euploid TE cells and aneuploid ICM in the same blastocyst. These results indicate that high proportions of human blastocysts produced in vitro from women of advanced maternal age are aneuploid and mosaic. Errors can occur in any of the 23 pairs of chromosomes in human blastocysts. Biopsy from TE in blastocysts does not exactly predict the chromosomal information in ICM if the embryos are aneuploid. Some mosaic blastocysts have euploid ICM, which may indicate important differentiate mechanism(s) of human preimplantation embryos.
The zebrafish has become an important vertebrate model for basic and biomedical research, including the research field of the biology of reproduction. However, very few morphological and stereological data are available regarding zebrafish testis structure and spermatogenesis. In this careful histomorphometric evaluation of the testis, we studied spermatogonial cells using molecular markers, determined the combined duration of meiotic and spermiogenic phases, and examined the formation of the Sertoli cell barrier (tight junctions). We found at least nine spermatogonial generations and propose a morphology-based nomenclature for spermatogonial generations that is compatible with the one used in higher vertebrates. The number of germ cells per cyst increased dramatically (1 to â¼1360 cells) from undifferentiated spermatogonia type A to early spermatids. The combined duration of meiotic and spermiogenic phases is approximately 6 days, one of the shorter periods among the teleost fish investigated to date. The number of Sertoli cells per cyst increased 9-fold during the maturational cycle of spermatogenic cysts and stabilized in the meiotic phase at a ratio of approximately 100 early spermatids per Sertoli cell (Sertoli cell efficiency). Similarly to mammals, Sertoli cell proliferation ceased in the meiotic phase, coinciding with the formation of tight junctions between Sertoli cells. Hence, the events taking place during puberty in the germinal epithelium of mammals seem to recapitulate the âlife historyâ of each individual spermatogenic cyst in zebrafish.
Since their discovery approximately three decades ago, sperm-borne RNAs, both large/small and coding/noncoding, have been reported in multiple organisms, and some have been implicated in spermatogenesis, early development, and epigenetic inheritance. Despite these advances, isolation, quantification, and annotation of sperm-borne RNAs remain nontrivial. The yields and subspecies of sperm-borne RNAs isolated from sperm can vary drastically depending on the methods used, and no cross-species analyses of sperm RNA contents have ever been conducted using a standardized sperm RNA isolation protocol. To address these issues, we developed a simple RNA isolation method that is applicable to sperm of various species, thus allowing for reliable interspecies comparisons. Based on RNASeq analyses, we established SpermBase (www.spermbase.org), a database dedicated to sperm-borne RNA profiling of multiple species. Currently, SpermBase contains large and small RNA expression data for mouse, rat, rabbit, and human total sperm and sperm heads. By analyzing large and small RNAs for conserved features, we found that many sperm-borne RNA species were conserved across all four species analyzed, and among the conserved small RNAs, sperm-borne tRNA-derived small noncoding RNAs and miRNAs can target a large number of genes known to be critical for early development.
The preimplantation period is a time of reprogramming that may be vulnerable to disruption. This question has wide clinical relevance since the number of children conceived by in vitro fertilization (IVF) is rising. To examine this question, outbred mice (CF1 Chi B6D2F1) conceived by IVF and cultured using Whitten medium and 20% O-2 (IVFWM group, less optimal) or K simplex optimized medium with amino acids and 5% O-2 (IVFKAA group, more optimal and similar to conditions used in human IVF) were studied postnatally. We found that flushed blastocysts transferred to recipient mice provided the best control group (FB group), as this accounted for the effects of superovulation, embryo transfer, and litter size. We observed that many physiological parameters were normal. Reassuringly, IVFKAA offspring did not differ significantly from FB offspring. However, male IVFWM mice (but not females) were larger during the first 19 wk of life and exhibited glucose intolerance. Male IVFWM mice also showed enlarged left heart despite normal blood pressure. Expression of candidate imprinted genes (H19, Igf2, and Slc38a4) in multiple adult tissues did not show differences among the groups; only Slc38a4 was down-regulated following IVF (in both culture conditions) in female adipose tissue. These studies demonstrate that adult metabolism is affected by the type of conditions encountered during the preimplantation stage. Further, the postnatal growth trajectory and glucose homeostasis following ex vivo manipulation may be sexual dimorphic. Future work on the long-term effects of IVF offspring should focus on glucose metabolism and the cardiovascular system.
In vitro ovarian follicle cultures may provide fertility-preserving options to women facing premature infertility due to cancer therapies. An encapsulated three-dimensional (3-D) culture system utilizing biomaterials to maintain cell-cell communication and support follicle development to produce a mature oocyte has been developed for the mouse. We tested whether this encapsulated 3-D system would also support development of nonhuman primate preantral follicles, for which in vitro growth has not been reported. Three questions were investigated: Does the cycle stage at which the follicles are isolated affect follicle development? Does the rigidity of the hydrogel influence follicle survival and growth? Do follicles require luteinizing hormone (LH), in addition to follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), for steroidogenesis? Secondary follicles were isolated from adult rhesus monkeys, encapsulated within alginate hydrogels, and cultured individually for â¤30 days. Follicles isolated from the follicular phase of the menstrual cycle had a higher survival rate ( P < 0.05) than those isolated from the luteal phase; however, this difference may also be attributed to differing sizes of follicles isolated during the different stages. Follicles survived and grew in two hydrogel conditions (0.5% and 0.25% alginate). Follicle diameters increased to a greater extent ( P < 0.05) in the presence of FSH alone than in FSH plus LH. Regardless of gonadotropin treatment, follicles produced estradiol, androstenedione, and progesterone by 14â30 days in vitro. Thus, an alginate hydrogel maintains the 3-D structure of individual secondary macaque follicles, permits follicle growth, and supports steroidogenesis for â¤30 days in vitro. This study documents the first use of the alginate system to maintain primate tissue architecture, and findings suggest that encapsulated 3-D culture will be successful in supporting the in vitro development of human follicles.
Bacterial infection-associated inflammation is thought to be a major cause of preterm premature rupture of membranes. Proinflammatory cytokines, such as interleukin 1B (IL1B), can weaken fetal membranes (FM) by upregulating matrix metalloproteinases and inducing apoptosis. The mechanism by which infection leads to inflammation at the maternal-fetal interface and subsequent preterm birth is thought to involve innate immune pattern recognition receptors (PRR), such as the Toll-like receptors (TLR) and Nod-like receptors (NLR), which recognize pathogen-associated molecular patterns (PAMPs). The objective of this study was to determine the cytokine profile generated by FMs in response to the bacterial TLR and NLR agonists peptidoglycan (PDG; TLR2), lipopolysaccharide (LPS; TLR4), flagellin (TLR5), CpG ODN (TLR9), iE-DAP (Nod1), and MDP (Nod2). PDG, LPS, flagellin, iE-DAP, and MDP triggered FMs to generate an inflammatory response, but the cytokine profiles were distinct for each TLR and NLR agonist, and only IL1B and RANTES were commonly upregulated in response to all five PAMPs. CpG ODN, in contrast, had a mild stimulatory effect only on MCP-1 and primarily downregulated basal FM cytokine production. IL1B secretion induced by PDG, LPS, flagellin, iE-DAP, and MDP was associated with its processing. Furthermore, FM IL1B secretion in response to TLR2, TLR4, and TLR5 activation was caspase 1-dependent, whereas Nod1 and Nod2 induced IL1B secretion independent of caspase 1. These findings demonstrate that FMs respond to different bacterial TLR and NLR PAMPs by generating distinct inflammatory cytokine profiles through distinct mechanisms that are specific to the innate immune PRR activated.
Steroid receptors in the stromal cells of endometrium and its disease counterpart tissue endometriosis play critical physiologic roles. We found that mRNA and protein levels of estrogen receptor 2 ( ESR2 ) were strikingly higher, whereas levels of estrogen receptor 1 ( ESR1 ), total progesterone receptor ( PGR ), and progesterone receptor B ( PGR B ) were significantly lower in endometriotic versus endometrial stromal cells. Because ESR2 displayed the most striking levels of differential expression between endometriotic and endometrial cells, and the mechanisms for this difference are unknown, we tested the hypothesis that alteration in DNA methylation is a mechanism responsible for severely increased ESR2 mRNA levels in endometriotic cells. We identified a CpG island occupying the promoter region (â197/+359) of the ESR2 gene. Bisulfite sequencing of this region showed significantly higher methylation in primary endometrial cells (n = 8 subjects) versus endometriotic cells (n = 8 subjects). The demethylating agent 5-aza-2â²-deoxycytidine significantly increased ESR2 mRNA levels in endometrial cells. Mechanistically, we employed serial deletion mutants of the ESR2 promoter fused to the luciferase reporter gene and transiently transfected into both endometriotic and endometrial cells. We demonstrated that the critical region (â197/+372) that confers promoter activity also bears the CpG island, and the activity of the ESR2 promoter was strongly inactivated by in vitro methylation. Taken together, methylation of a CpG island at the ESR2 promoter region is a primary mechanism responsible for differential expression of ESR2 in endometriosis and endometrium. These findings may be applied to a number of areas ranging from diagnosis to the treatment of endometriosis.
In mammals, the transcriptome of large noncoding RNAs (lncRNAs) is believed to be greater than that of messenger RNAs (mRNAs). Some lncRNAs, especially large intergenic noncoding RNAs (lincRNAs), participate in epigenetic regulation by binding chromatin-modifying protein complexes and regulating protein-coding gene expression. Given that epigenetic regulation plays a critical role in male germline development, we embarked on expression profiling of both lncRNAs and mRNAs during male germline reprogramming and postnatal development using microarray analyses. We identified thousands of lncRNAs and hundreds of lincRNAs that are either up-or downregulated at six critical time points during male germ cell development. In addition, highly regulated lncRNAs were correlated with nearby (<30 kb) mRNA gene clusters, which were also significantly up-or downregulated. Large ncRNAs can be localized to both the nucleus and cytoplasm, with nuclear lncRNAs mostly associated with key components of the chromatin-remodeling protein complexes. Our data indicate that expression of lncRNAs is dynamically regulated during male germline development and that lncRNAs may function to regulate gene expression at both transcriptional and posttranscriptional levels via genetic and epigenetic mechanisms.
The success of postnatal uterine morphogenesis dictates, in part, the embryotrophic potential and functional capacity of the adult uterus. The definitive role of Wnt7a in postnatal uterine development and adult function requires a conditional knockout, because global deletion disrupts mullerian duct patterning, specification, and cell fate in the fetus. The Wnt7a-null uterus appears to be posteriorized because of developmental defects in the embryo, as evidenced by the stratified luminal epithelium that is normally found in the vagina and the presence of short and uncoiled oviducts. To understand the biological role of WNT7A after birth and allow tissue-selective deletion of Wnt7a, we generated loxP-flanked exon 2 mice and conditionally deleted Wnt7a after birth in the uterus by crossing them with Pgr(Cre) mice. Morphological examination revealed no obvious differences in the vagina, cervix, oviduct, or ovary. The uteri of Wnt7a mutant mice contained no endometrial glands, whereas all other uterine cell types appeared to be normal. Postnatal differentiation of endometrial glands was observed in control mice, but not in mutant mice, between Postnatal Days 3 and 12. Expression of morphoregulatory genes, particularly Foxa2, Hoxa10, Hoxa11, Msx1, and Wnt16, was disrupted in the Wnt7a mutant uteri. Conditional Wnt7a mutant mice were not fertile. Although embryos were present in uteri of mutant mice on Day 3.5 of pregnancy, blastocyst implantation was not observed on Day 5.5. Furthermore, expression of several genes (Foxa2, Lif, Msx1, and Wnt16) was reduced or absent in adult Wnt7a-deleted uteri on Day 3.5 postmating. These results indicate that WNT7A plays a critical role in postnatal uterine gland morphogenesis and function, which are important for blastocyst implantation and fertility in the adult uterus.
Chronic placental hypoxia is one of the root causes of placental insufficiencies that result in pre-eclampsia and maternal hypertension. Chronic hypoxia causes disruption of trophoblast (TB) development, invasion into maternal decidua, and remodeling of maternal spiral arteries. The pregnant guinea pig shares several characteristics with humans such as hemomonochorial placenta, villous subplacenta, deep TB invasion, and remodeling of maternal arteries, and is an ideal animal model to study placental development. We hypothesized that chronic placental hypoxia of the pregnant guinea pig inhibits TB invasion and alters spiral artery remodeling. Time-mated pregnant guinea pigs were exposed to either normoxia (NMX) or three levels of hypoxia (HPX: 16%, 12%, or 10.5% O-2) from 20 day gestation until midterm (39-40 days) or term (60-65 days). At term, HPX (10.5% O-2) increased maternal arterial blood pressure (HPX 57.9 +/- 2.3 vs. NMX 40.4 +/- 2.3, P<0.001), decreased fetal weight by 16.1% (P<0.05), and increased both absolute and relative placenta weights by 10.1% and 31.8%, respectively (P<0.05). At midterm, there was a significant increase in TB proliferation in HPX placentas as confirmed by increased PCNA and KRT7 staining and elevated ESX1 (TB marker) gene expression (P<0.05). Additionally, quantitative image analysis revealed decreased invasion of maternal blood vessels by TB cells. In summary, this animal model of placental HPX identifies several aspects of abnormal placental development, including increased TB proliferation and decreased migration and invasion of TBs into the spiral arteries, the consequences of which are associated with maternal hypertension and fetal growth restriction.
Sterile intra-amniotic inflammation is commonly observed in patients with spontaneous preterm labor, a syndrome that commonly precedes preterm birth, the leading cause of perinatal morbidity and mortality worldwide. However, the mechanisms leading to sterile intra-amniotic inflammation are poorly understood and no treatment exists for this clinical condition. Herein, we investigated whether the alarmin S100B could induce sterile intra-amniotic inflammation by activating the NLRP3 inflammasome, and whether the inhibition of this pathway could prevent preterm labor/birth and adverse neonatal outcomes. We found that the ultrasound-guided intra-amniotic administration of S100B induced a 50% rate of preterm labor/birth and a high rate of neonatal mortality (59.7%) without altering the fetal and placental weights. Using a multiplex cytokine array and immunoblotting, we reported that S100B caused a proinflammatory response in the amniotic cavity and induced the activation of the NLRP3 inflammasome in the fetal membranes, indicated by the upregulation of the NLRP3 protein and increased release of active caspase-1 and mature IL-1β. Inhibition of the NLRP3 inflammasome via the specific inhibitor MCC950 prevented preterm labor/birth by 35.7% and reduced neonatal mortality by 26.7%. Yet, inhibition of the NLRP3 inflammasome at term did not drastically obstruct the physiological process of parturition. In conclusion, the data presented herein indicate that the alarmin S100B can induce sterile intra-amniotic inflammation, preterm labor/birth, and adverse neonatal outcomes by activating the NLRP3 inflammasome, which can be prevented by inhibiting such a pathway. These findings provide evidence that sterile intra-amniotic inflammation could be treated by targeting the NLRP3 inflammasome.
Continual and robust spermatogenesis relies on the actions of an undifferentiated spermatogonial population that contains stem cells. A remarkable feature of spermatogonial stem cells (SSCs) is the capacity to regenerate spermatogenesis following isolation from a donor testis and transplantation into a permissive recipient testis. This capacity has enormous potential as a tool for enhancing the reproductive capacity of livestock, which can improve production efficiency. Because SSCs are a rare subset of the undifferentiated spermatogonial population, a period of in vitro amplification in number following isolation from donor testicular tissue is essential. Here, we describe methodology for isolation of a cell fraction from prepubertal bull testes that is enriched for undifferentiated spermatogonia and long-term maintenance of the cells in both the feeder cell coculture and the feeder-free format. To achieve this method, we derived bovine fetal fibroblasts (BFF) to serve as feeders for optimizing medium conditions that promote maintenance of bovine undifferentiated spermatogonia for at least 2 mo. In addition, we devised a feeder-free system with BFF-conditioned medium that sustained bovine undifferentiated spermatogonia for at least 1 mo in vitro. The methodologies described could be optimized to provide platforms for exponential expansion of bovine SSCs that will provide the numbers needed for transplantation into recipient testes.
During embryonic development, Foxa2 is required for the formation of the node and notochord, and ablation of this gene results in defects in gastrulation, neural tube patterning, and gut morphogenesis. Foxa2 has been shown to be expressed specifically in the glandular epithelium of the murine uterus. To study the uterine function of Foxa2, this gene was conditionally ablated in the mouse uterus by crossing mice with floxed Foxa2 alleles, Foxa2(IoxP/IoxP), with the Pgr(cre) mouse model. Pgr(cre/+) Foxa2(IoxP/IoxP) mice showed significantly reduced fertility. Analysis of the uterus on Day 5.5 of pregnancy showed disrupted blastocyst implantation. Pgr(cre/+) Foxa2(IoxP/IoxP) mice also showed a severe impairment of the uterus to respond to the artificial induction of the decidual response. Morphological examination of the uteri of these mice showed a severe reduction in the number of endometrial glands. The loss of endometrial glands resulted in the reduction of leukemia inhibitory factor (Lif) expression. The lack of a decidual response could be partially rescued by an intrauterine injection of LIF before the initiation of the decidual response. This analysis demonstrates that Foxa2 regulates endometrial gland development and that mice with a loss of endometrial glands cannot support implantation in part due to the loss of LIF, which is a requisite for fertility in the mouse.
Formation of the germ cell lineage involves multiple processes, including repression of somatic differentiation and reacquisition of pluripotency as well as a unique epigenetic constitution. The transcriptional regulator Prdm1 has been identified as a main coordinator of this process, controlling epigenetic modification and gene expression. Here we report on the expression pattern of the transcription factor Tcfap2c , a putative downstream target of Prdm1 , during normal mouse embryogenesis and the consequences of its specific loss in primordial germ cells (PGCs) and their derivatives. Tcfap2c is expressed in PGCs from Embryonic Day 7.25 (E 7.25) up to E 12.5, and targeted disruption resulted in sterile animals, both male and female. In the mutant animals, PGCs were specified but were lost around E 8.0. PGCs generated in vitro from embryonic stem cells lacking TCFAP2C displayed induction of Prdm1 and Dppa3 . Upregulation of Hoxa1, Hoxb1, and T together with lack of expression of germ cell markers such Nanos3, Dazl, and Mutyh suggested that the somatic gene program is induced in TCFAP2C-deficient PGCs. Repression of TCFAP2C in TCam-2, a human PGC-resembling seminoma cell line, resulted in specific upregulation of HOXA1, HOXB1, MYOD1, and HAND1, indicative of mesodermal differentiation. Expression of genes indicative of ectodermal, endodermal, or extraembryonic differentiation, as well as the finding of no change to epigenetic modifications, suggested control by other factors. Our results implicate Tcfap2c as an important effector of Prdm1 activity that is required for PGC maintenance, most likely mediating Prdm1 -induced suppression of mesodermal differentiation.
One of the most promising applications of microarrays is the study of changes in gene expression associated with the growth and development of mammalian tissues. The testis provides an excellent model to determine the ability of microarrays to effectively characterize the changes in gene expression as an organ develops from birth to adulthood. To this end, a developmental testis gene expression time course profiling the expression patterns of â¼36â000 transcripts on the Affymetrix MGU74v2 GeneChip platform at 11 distinct time points was created to gain a greater understanding of the molecular changes necessary for and elicited by the development of the testis. Additionally, gene expression profiles of isolated testicular cell types were created that can aid in the further characterization of the specific functional actions of each cell type in the testis. Statistical analysis of the data revealed 11â252 transcripts (9846 unique) expressed differentially in a significant manner. Subsequent cluster analysis produced five distinct expressional patterns within the time course. These patterns of expression are present at distinct chronological periods during testis development and often share similarities with cell-specific expression profiles. Analysis of cell-specific expression patterns produced unique and characteristic groups of transcripts that provide greater insight into the activities, biological and chronological, of testicular cell types during the progression of spermatogenesis. Further analysis of this time course can provide a distinct and more definitive view into the genes implicated, known and unknown, in the maturation, maintenance, and function of the testis and the integrated process of spermatogenesis.
During the invasive phase of implantation, trophoblasts and maternal decidual stromal cells secrete products that regulate trophoblast differentiation and migration into the maternal endometrium. Paracrine interactions between the extravillous trophoblast and the maternal decidua are important for successful embryonic implantation, including establishing the placental vasculature, anchoring the placenta to the uterine wall, and promoting the immunoacceptance of the fetal allograph. To our knowledge, global crosstalk between the trophoblast and the decidua has not been elucidated to date, and the present study used a functional genomics approach to investigate these paracrine interactions. Human endometrial stromal cells were decidualized with progesterone and further treated with conditioned media from human trophoblasts (TCM) or, as a control, with control conditioned media (CCM) from nondecidualized stromal cells for 0, 3, and 12 h. Total RNA was isolated and processed for analysis on whole-genome, high-density oligonucleotide arrays containing 54â600 genes. We found that 1374 genes were significantly upregulated and that 3443 genes were significantly downregulated after 12 h of coincubation of stromal cells with TCM, compared to CCM. Among the most upregulated genes were the chemokines CXCL1 ( GRO1 ) and IL8 , CXCR4 , and other genes involved in the immune response ( CCL8 [SCYA8] , pentraxin 3 ( PTX3) , IL6 , and interferon-regulated and -related genes) as well as TNFAIP6 ( tumor necrosis factor alpha-induced protein 6 ) and metalloproteinases ( MMP1 , MMP10 , and MMP14 ). Among the downregulated genes were growth factors, e.g., IGF1 , FGF1 , TGFB1, and angiopoietin-1, and genes involved in Wnt signaling ( WNT4 and FZD ). Real-time RT-PCR and ELISAs, as well as immunohistochemical analysis of human placental bed specimens, confirmed these data for representative genes of both up- and downregulated groups. The data demonstrate a significant induction of proinflammatory cytokines and chemokines, as well as angiogenic/static factors in decidualized endometrial stromal cells in response to trophoblast-secreted products. The data suggest that the trophoblast acts to alter the local immune environment of the decidua to facilitate the process of implantation and ensure an enriched cytokine/chemokine environment while limiting the mitotic activity of the stromal cells during the invasive phase of implantation.
Oocyte development is characterized by impressive changes in chromatin structure and function in the germinal vesicle (GV) that are crucial in conferring to the oocyte meiotic and developmental competence. During oogenesis, oocyte and follicular cells communicate by paracrine and junctional mechanisms. In cow, cumulus-enclosed oocytes (CEOs) isolated from early antral follicles have uncondensed chromatin (GV0), functionally open gap junction (GJ)-mediated communications, and limited meiotic competence. The aim of the present study was to analyze the role of GJ communications on the chromatin remodeling process during the specific phase of folliculogenesis that coincides with the transcriptional silencing and the sequential acquisition of meiotic and developmental capability. CEOs were cultured in a follicle-stimulating hormone-based culture system that sustained GJ coupling and promoted oocyte growth and transition from GV0 to higher stages of condensation. When GJ functionality was experimentally interrupted, chromatin rapidly condensed, and RNA synthesis suddenly ceased. These effects were prevented by the addition of cilostamide, a phosphodiesterase 3 inhibitor, indicating that the action of GJ-mediated communication on chromatin structure and function is mediated by cAMP. Prolonging GJ coupling during oocyte culture before in vitro maturation enhanced the ability of early antral oocytes to undergo meiosis and early embryonic development. Altogether, the evidence suggests that GJ-mediated communication between germinal and somatic compartments plays a fundamental role in the regulation of chromatin remodeling and transcription, which in turn are related to competence acquisition.
Vitamin A deficiency in the mouse results in an arrest in the progression of undifferentiated spermatogonia to differentiating spermatogonia. The supplement of retinol to vitamin-A-deficient mice reinitiates spermatogenesis in a synchronous manner throughout the testes. It is unclear whether the effects of retinoids are the result of a direct action on germ cells or are indirectly mediated through Sertoli cells. The expression of Stimulated by retinoic acid gene 8 ( Stra8) , which is required for spermatogenesis, is directly related to the availability of retinoic acid (RA). Analysis of gene expression by microarrays revealed moderate levels of Stra8 transcript in gonocytes and high levels in A and B spermatogonia. Stra8 mRNA levels were greatly reduced or absent in germ cells once they entered meiosis. This study examined the effect of retinoic acid on cultured neonatal testes and isolated gonocytes/spermatogonia in vitro. THY1 + and KIT + germ cells were isolated by magnetic-activated cell sorting from the testes of mice of different ages. Isolated germ cells were cultured and treated with either vehicle (ethanol) or RA without feeder cells. We found that 1) Stra8 is predominantly expressed in premeiotic germ cells, 2) RA stimulates gonocyte DNA replication and differentiation in cultured neonatal testes, 3) in the absence of feeder cells, RA directly induces the transition of undifferentiated spermatogonia to differentiating spermatogonia by stimulating Stra8 and Kit gene expression, 4) RA dramatically stimulates Stra8 expression in undifferentiated spermatogonia but has a lesser impact in differentiating spermatogonia, 5) endogenous Stra8 gene expression is higher in differentiating spermatogonia than in undifferentiated spermatogonia and could mediate the RA effects on spermatogonial maturation, and 6) RA stimulates a group of genes involved in the metabolism, storage, transport, and signaling of retinoids.