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Lead poisoning is a stealthy threat to human physiological systems as chronic exposure can remain asymptomatic for long periods of time before symptoms manifest. We presently review the biophysical mechanisms of lead poisoning that contribute to male infertility. Environmental and occupational exposure of lead may adversely affect the hypothalamic−pituitary−testicular axis, impairing the induction of spermatogenesis. Dysfunction at the reproductive axis, namely testosterone suppression, is most susceptible and irreversible during pubertal development. Lead poisoning also appears to directly impair the process of spermatogenesis itself as well as sperm function. Spermatogenesis issues may manifest as low sperm count and stem from reproductive axis dysfunction or testicular degeneration. Generation of excessive reactive oxygen species due to lead-associated oxidative stress can potentially affect sperm viability, motility, DNA fragmentation, membrane lipid peroxidation, capacitation, hyperactivation, acrosome reaction, and chemotaxis for sperm-oocyte fusion, all of which can contribute to deter fertilization. Reproductive toxicity has been tested through cross-sectional analysis studies in humans as well as in vivo and in vitro studies in animals.
Shortly after the implementation of comprehensive chromosome screening (CCS) techniques for preimplantation genetic testing for aneuploidies (PGT-A), the discussion about the transition from day 3 to blastocyst stage biopsy was initiated. Trophectoderm biopsy with CCS is meant to overcome the limitations of cleavage-stage biopsy and single-cell analysis. The aim of this study was to assess the results obtained in our PGT-A programme after the implementation of this new strategy. Comparisons between the results obtained in 179 PGT-A cycles with day 3 biopsy (D+3) and fresh embryo transfer, and 204 cycles with trophectoderm biopsy and deferred (frozen–thawed) embryo transfer were established. Fewer embryos were biopsied and a higher euploidy rate was observed in the trophectoderm biopsy group. No differences in implantation (50.3% vs. 61.4%) and clinical pregnancy rate per transfer (56.1% vs. 65.3%) were found. Although the mean number of euploid embryos per cycle did not differ between groups (1.5 ± 1.7 vs. 1.7 ± 1.8), the final number of euploid blastocysts available for transfer per cycle was significantly higher in the trophectoderm biopsy group (1.1 ± 1.3 vs. 1.7 ± 1.8). This factor led to an increased cumulative live birth rate in this last group (34.1% vs. 44.6%). Although both strategies can offer good results, trophectoderm biopsy offers a more robust diagnosis and the intervention is less harmful for the embryos so more euploid blastocysts are finally available for transfer and/or vitrification.
Cumulus cells (CCs) play an important role in the regulation of female gamete development, meiotic maturation, oocyte–sperm interaction, capacitation and acrosome reaction. However, their role in maintaining oocyte competence after vitrification is unclear as controversial data on their protecting action against oocyte cryoinjuries are available. Here we described the effects of vitrification on the ultrastructure of human CCs collected from women undergoing assisted reproductive technologies (ARTs). In total, 50 patches of CCs, sampled from high-quality human cumulus–oocyte complexes, were randomly allocated into two groups after patient informed consent: 1, fresh CCs (controls, n = 25); 2, vitrified CCs (n = 25). Samples were then prepared and observed by transmission electron microscopy. In fresh CCs, in which small cell clusters were visible, cell membranes were joined by focal gap junctions. Microvilli were rare and short. Nuclei, mitochondria, smooth endoplasmic reticulum (SER), Golgi apparatus and lipid droplets appeared well preserved; vacuoles were scarce. After vitrification, we observed two populations of CCs: light CCs, with a smooth appearance and few short microvilli; and dark CCs, with numerous and long microvilli. In both, most of the organelles appeared similar to those of fresh CCs. Lipid droplets were denser and more numerous, with respect to fresh CCs. They were mainly located in the peri-nuclear and sub-plasmalemmal regions. Numerous packed electron-negative vacuoles were visible. The vitrification procedure did not cause alterations in the fine structure of major organelles, except for an increased amount of lipid droplets and vacuoles. This specific sensitivity of human CCs to vitrification should be considered during ARTs.
Despite sperm mitochondrial relevance to the fertilization capacity, the processes involved in the production of ATP and functional dynamics of sperm mitochondria are not fully understood. One of these processes is the paradox involved between function and formation of reactive oxygen species performed by the organelle. Therefore, this review aimed to provide data on the role of sperm mitochondria in oxidative homeostasis and functionality as well the tools to assess sperm mitochondrial function.
This study was undertaken to evaluate whether cigarette smoke is associated with changes in the expression of antioxidant enzymes in granulosa cells of women undergoing IVF treatments. For this aim, the expression of three antioxidant enzymes (SOD1, SOD2 and catalase) in non-smokers (n = 20) and smokers (n = 20) was analyzed. There was a statistically significant overexpression of SOD2 and catalase mRNA levels in smokers in comparison with non-smokers. Cigarette smoking was associated with a lower fertilization rate, implantation rate and pregnancy rate in comparison with non-smokers. There was no effect on retrieved oocytes number, metaphase II oocytes number, quality of embryos transferred and live birth rate. These findings suggest that cigarette smoke initiates oxidative stress in granulosa cells.
The tubulin cofactors TBCD and TBCE play an essential role in regulation of the microtubule dynamics in a wide variety of somatic cells, but little information is known about the expression of these cofactors in human sperm and oocytes. In this study, we focused on the investigation of the presence of, and the differential distribution of, the tubulin cofactors TBCD and TBCE in human sperm and during human oocyte maturation. We performed expression assays for TBCD and TBCE by reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR), western blot and immunofluorescence and verified the presence of both cofactors in human gametes. TBCD and TBCE were located mainly in the middle region and in the tail of the sperm while in the oocyte the localization was cytosolic. The mRNA of both tubulin cofactors were present in the human oocytes but not in sperm cells. This finding gives a first insight into where TBCD and TBCE could carry out their function in the continuous changes that the cytoskeleton experiences during gametogenesis and also prior to fertilization.
The negative effects of cryopreservation on sperm parameters are well documented but little information is known about molecular basis of the process. The aim of the present study was to investigate the possible effects of sperm cryopreservation on main apoptotic signs including DNA fragmentation and caspase-3 activation and to determine if these effects vary according to sperm parameters. Sperm samples of 72 patients were cryopreserved. The patients were sub-grouped as normozoospermic or non-normozoospermic patients according to their semen parameters. DNA fragmentation rates and caspase-3 activation levels were analyzed before and after cryopreservation in both groups. Mean DNA fragmentation rate was increased significantly from 23.98% in neat semen samples to 27.34% after cryopreservation (P = 0.03). DNA fragmentation rates were slightly higher in non-normozoospermic patients compared with the normozoospermic patients in both the neat semen and after cryopreservation (23.25 and 24.71% vs. 26.32 and 28.36%, respectively) although the difference obtained were not statistically significant. An increasing trend for caspase-3 activations (0.093 vs. 0.116) was observed after cryopreservation but the differences were not statistically significant. Caspase-3 activation was found to be slightly higher in non-normozoospermic patients both in the neat semen and after cryopreservation compared with the normozoospermic patients but the differences were not statistically significant. Caspase-3 expression was also shown using immunocytochemistry in both fresh ejaculated sperm and thawed sperm after cryopreservation but at different localizations. The cryopreservation process had detrimental effects on sperm quality but the quality of the sperm samples was not adversely effective for the apoptotic markers including DNA fragmentation and caspase-3 activation patterns. In fact, it was the cryopreservation process itself that adversely effected the above apoptotic markers and apoptosis. It was concluded therefore that sperm cell cryopreservation triggers apoptosis after thawing and this process adversely affects semen parameters.
Digyny, the presence of a third pronucleus due to the failure of second polar body extrusion, is problematic after intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) practices. Mitochondria have critical roles such as production of adenosine triphosphate (ATP) and regulation of Ca2+ homeostasis during oocyte maturation, fertilization and the following development, while the regulation of meiotic spindle formation, chromosome segregation, pronuclear apposition and cytokinesis is closely associated with the cytoskeleton. In this study, mitochondrial membrane potential, distribution of F-actin and γ-tubulin, and the ultrastructure of three pronuclear (3PN) oocytes were investigated. 3PN oocytes after ICSI procedure were taken from patients who were enrolled in assisted reproduction programmes. For mitochondrial membrane potential analysis, fresh oocytes stained with the mitochondrial membrane potential probe JC-1, were evaluated under fluorescence microscopy. The mitochondrial membrane potential of three pronuclear oocytes showed similar results to normal zygotes. γ-Tubulin was stained strongly at the subplasmalemmal domain and microfilaments were localized at the cortical, but not the perinuclear, area. Cytoplasmic halos were moderately or not detected by electron microscopy; lipofuscin granules, degenerated mitochondria, and multilamellated bodies were seen in the ooplasm. Immunohistochemistry and electron microscopic findings suggested that mitochondrial membrane potential has no direct effect on second polar body extrusion. This abnormality can be associated with an altered cytoskeleton due to poor oocyte quality.
Constant progress in the diagnosis and treatment of cancer disease has increased the number and prognosis of cancer survivors. However, the toxic effects of chemotherapy and radiotherapy on ovarian function have resulted in premature ovarian failure. Patients are, therefore, still expecting methods to be developed to preserve their fertility successfully. Several potential options are available to preserve fertility in patients who face premature ovarian failure, including immature or mature oocyte and embryo cryopreservation. However, for children or prepubertal women needing immediate chemotherapy, cryopreservation of ovarian tissue is the only alternative. The ultimate aim of this strategy is to implant ovarian tissue into the pelvic cavity (orthotopic site) or in a heterotopic site once oncological treatment is completed and the patient is disease free. Transplantation of ovarian tissue with sufficiently large numbers of follicles could potentially restore endocrine function and allow multiple cycles for conception. However, the success of ovarian tissue transplantation still has multiple challenges, such as the low number of follicles in the graft that may affect their longevity as well as the survival of the tissue during ex vivo processing and subsequent transplantation. Therefore, this review aims to summarize the achievements of ovary grafting and the potential techniques that have been developed to improve ovarian graft survival.
Recently, the existence of a mechanism for neo-oogenesis in the ovaries of adult mammals has generated much controversy within reproductive biology. This mechanism, which proposes that the ovary has cells capable of renewing the follicular reserve, has been described for various species of mammals. The first evidence was found in prosimians and humans. However, these findings were not considered relevant because the predominant dogma for reproductive biology at the time was that of Zuckerman. This dogma states that female mammals are born with finite numbers of oocytes that decline throughout postnatal life. Currently, the concept of neo-oogenesis has gained momentum due to the discovery of cells with mitotic activity in adult ovaries of various mammalian species (mice, humans, rhesus monkeys, domestic animals such as pigs, and wild animals such as bats). Despite these reports, the concept of neo-oogenesis has not been widely accepted by the scientific community, generating much criticism and speculation about its accuracy because it has been impossible to reproduce some evidence. This controversy has led to the creation of two positions: one in favour of neo-oogenesis and the other against it. Various animal models have been used in support of both camps, including both classic laboratory animals and domestic and wild animals. The aim of this review is to critically present the current literature on the subject and to evaluate the arguments pro and contra neo-oogenesis in mammals.
Currently, rescue in vitro maturation (IVM) is not a routine method in assisted reproductive treatment (ART) programmes but is a promising procedure for ART to improve IVM. The aim of this study was to compare embryo morphokinetics of germinal vesicles (GV) with metaphase II (MII) oocytes from controlled ovarian hyperstimulation (COH) cycles by time-lapse photography monitoring (TLM). Morphokinetics of the same number of embryos derived from the in vivo (group I) and rescue of in vitro matured oocytes (group II) from 310 patients were analyzed and compared retrospectively. The time to form second PB extrusion (tPB2), time of pronuclei appearance (tPNa), time of pronuclei fading (tPNf) and time of two to eight discrete cells (t2–t8) were assessed. Abnormal cleavage patterns such as uneven blastomeres at the two-cell stage, cell fusion (Fu), trichotomous mitoses (TM), and the rates of embryo arrest were assessed. These data showed that tPB2, tPNa, tPNf, t2, t3 and t4 stages took place later in group II compared with group I (P<0.001, P=0.017, P<0.001, P<0.001, P<0.001, P<0.001, respectively). The rates of uneven blastomeres, Fu, TM, and embryo arrest were increased significantly in group II compared with group I (P=0.001, P<0.001, P=0.003, P<0.001, respectively). Based on the exact annotation of timing parameters and cleavage patterns, the present data agreed with the concept that rescue IVM of oocytes negatively influences embryo morphokinetics. Therefore, cautious use of embryos derived from rescue IVM of GV oocytes should be made.
To select from a single patient the best oocytes able to reach the blastocyst stage, we searched for valuable markers for oocytes competence. We evaluated the DNA fragmentation index (DFI) and the level of some survival molecules, such as AKT, pAKT and pERK1/2, in individual cumulus cell–oocyte complexes (COC). The study included normo-responder women. The average age of the patients was 34.3. DFI in cumulus cells was evaluated using the terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase (TdT) dUTP nick-end labelling (TUNEL) assay in situ. AKT, pAKT and pERK1/2 were measured by immunological assay and densitometric analysis of fluorescent signals using NIS-Elements BR 3.10 image software. Statistical analysis was performed using STATA SE/14.1. The study focused on 53 patients involved after informed consent. Out of 255 MII oocytes, 197 were fertilized and the derived embryos had the following evolution: 117 completed the development to blastocyst and were transferred to uterus; 57 were vitrified at the blastocyst stage; and 23 were arrested during in vitro culture at different stages of cleavage. We found a significant statistical difference between the DFI of cumulus cells of the arrested embryos and the transferred blastocysts (P = 0.004), confirming that DFI could be considered as a valuable marker of oocyte competence. In addition, the pAKT/DFI ratio was higher in cumulus cells of oocytes able to produce blastocysts, indicating that DFI is significantly lower when pAKT is higher (P = 0.043). This study demonstrates for the first time that the relationship between apoptosis and survival molecules can be used as a marker to select the best oocytes.
The aim was to identify cell and genetic predictors of human blastocyst hatching success in assisted reproduction programmes via a prospective case–control study. Blastocysts, donated by couples in assisted reproduction programmes were used. Hatching success assessment was performed after 144–146 h post-fertilization. The mRNA expression levels of cathepsin V (CTSV), GATA-binding protein 3 (GATA3) and human chorionic gonadotropin beta subunit 3, 5, 7 and 8 (CGB) genes were detected by quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction. The odds ratio (OR) of hatching due to zona pellucida (ZP) thickness, oocyte and sperm quality, embryo quality and mRNA expression of CTSV, GATA3 and CGB genes in blastocysts was determined. From 62 blastocysts included in the study, 47 (75.8%) were unable to hatch spontaneously. The ZP thickening, and oocyte and sperm quality did not affect human blastocyst ability to hatch, except the combination of cytoplasmic and extracytoplasmic oocyte dysmorphisms (OR = 1.25; 95% confidence interval = 1.08, 1.45). Hatching-capable blastocysts had higher Gardner scale grade and mRNA expression of CTSV, GATA3 and CGB genes than hatching-incapable blastocysts. The human blastocyst hatching success depends on the blastocyst Gardner grade, but not on ZP and gamete quality. Blastocyst development was regulated by CTSV, GATA3 and CGB gene expression.
We produced a new chemical compound based on methylxanthines and polyphenols (CCMP) present in the chemical matrix of guaraná (Paullinia cupana), a seed extract with antioxidant properties. After supplementation with the standard extract of resveratrol, a well documented antioxidant found in other plant sources, we investigated whether this resveratrol-enriched compound could improve sperm viability and modulate differentially reactive oxygen species (ROS) and nitric oxide (NO) levels in thawed sperm. Sperm samples obtained from healthy young donors were treated with different concentrations of guaraná extract (0.1, 1, 5 or 10 mg/ml) and cells were frozen at −80°C for 24 h. In addition, the potential protective effects of guaraná treatment on sperm treated with pro-oxidant compound (200 µM hydrogen peroxide, H2O2) were assessed. Samples were also exposed to three concentrations of CCMP before being frozen in liquid nitrogen (−196°C) or in an ultrafreezer (−80°C) for 24 h, and both pre-freezing and post-thaw measurements of viability and oxidative stress were performed. Guaraná supplementation at 10 mg/ml significantly increased post-thaw viability and decreased oxidative metabolism of the sperm. Moreover, selected concentrations of CCMP improved viability and oxidative metabolism in sperm samples pre-freezing. Furthermore, CCMP showed cryoprotective activity by increasing viability and decreasing oxidative stress in post-thaw samples. In summary, these findings suggested that CCMP supplementation acts as a cryoprotectant to modulate ROS and NO levels in thawed sperm. CCMP could be used to enhance sperm quality and reproductive success.