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Although ethanol treatment is widely used to activate oocytes, the underlying mechanisms are largely unclear. Roles of intracellular calcium stores and extracellular calcium in ethanol-induced activation (EIA) of oocytes remain to be verified, and whether calcium-sensing receptor (CaSR) is involved in EIA is unknown. This study showed that calcium-free ageing (CFA) in vitro significantly decreased intracellular stored calcium (sCa) and CaSR expression, and impaired EIA, spindle/chromosome morphology and developmental potential of mouse oocytes. Although EIA in oocytes with full sCa after ageing with calcium does not require calcium influx, calcium influx is essential for EIA of oocytes with reduced sCa after CFA. Furthermore, the extremely low EIA rate in oocytes with CFA-downregulated CaSR expression and the fact that inhibiting CaSR significantly decreased the EIA of oocytes with a full complement of CaSR suggest that CaSR played a significant role in the EIA of ageing oocytes. In conclusion, CFA impaired EIA and the developmental potential of mouse oocytes by decreasing sCa and downregulating CaSR expression. Because mouse oocytes routinely treated for activation (18 h post hCG) are equipped with a full sCa complement and CaSR, the present results suggest that, while calcium influx is not essential, CaSR is required for the EIA of oocytes.
Studies have indicated that psychological stress impairs human fertility and that various stressors can induce apoptosis of testicular cells. However, the mechanisms by which psychological stress on males reduces semen quality and stressors induce apoptosis in testicular cells are largely unclear. Using a psychological (restraint) stress mouse model, we tested whether male psychological stress triggers apoptosis of spermatozoa and spermatogenic cells through activating tumour necrosis factor (TNF)-α signalling. Wild-type or TNF-α−/− male mice were restrained for 48 h before examination for apoptosis and expression of TNF-α and TNF receptor 1 (TNFR1) in spermatozoa, epididymis, seminiferous tubules and spermatogenic cells. The results showed that male restraint significantly decreased fertilization rate and mitochondrial membrane potential, while increasing levels of malondialdehyde, active caspase-3, TNF-α and TNFR1 in spermatozoa. Male restraint also increased apoptosis and expression of TNF-α and TNFR1 in caudae epididymides, seminiferous tubules and spermatogenic cells. Sperm quality was also significantly impaired when spermatozoa were recovered 35 days after male restraint. The restraint-induced damage to spermatozoa, epididymis and seminiferous tubules was significantly ameliorated in TNF-α−/− mice. Furthermore, incubation with soluble TNF-α significantly reduced sperm motility and fertilizing potential. Taken together, the results demonstrated that male psychological stress induces apoptosis in spermatozoa and spermatogenic cells through activating the TNF-α system and that the stress-induced apoptosis in spermatogenic cells can be translated into impaired quality in future spermatozoa.
Maternal supraphysiological estradiol (E2) environment during pregnancy leads to adverse perinatal outcomes. However, the influence of oocyte exposure to high E2 levels on perinatal outcomes remains unknown. Thus, a retrospective cohort study was conducted to explore the effect of high E2 level induced by controlled ovarian stimulation (COH) on further outcomes after frozen embryo transfer (FET). The study included all FET cycles (n = 10,581) between 2014 and 2017. All cycles were categorized into three groups according to the E2 level on the day of the human Chorionic Gonadotropin trigger. Odds ratios (ORs) and their confidence intervals (CIs) were calculated to evaluate the association between E2 level during COH and pregnancy outcomes and subsequent neonatal outcomes. From our findings, higher E2 level was associated with lower percentage of chemical pregnancy, clinical pregnancy, ongoing pregnancy, and live birth as well as increased frequency of early miscarriage. Preterm births were more common among singletons in women with higher E2 level during COH (aOR1 = 1.93, 95% CI: 1.22–3.06; aOR2 = 2.05, 95% CI: 1.33–3.06). Incidence of small for gestational age (SGA) was more common in both singletons (aOR1 = 2.01, 95% CI: 1.30–3.11; aOR2 = 2.51, 95% CI: 1.69–3.74) and multiples (aOR1 = 1.58, 95% CI: 1.03–2.45; aOR2 = 1.99, 95% CI: 1.05–3.84) among women with relatively higher E2 level. No association was found between high E2 level during COH and the percentage of macrosomia or large for gestational age. In summary, oocyte exposure to high E2 level during COH should be brought to our attention, since the pregnancy rate decreasing and the risk of preterm birth and SGA increasing following FET.
Fusion of nucleoli or nucleolus precursor bodies (NPBs) has been observed during somatic cell interphase and pronuclear development of human zygotes; however, the underlying mechanism is unknown. NPB fusion and its regulation by mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) and maturation-promoting factor (MPF) were studied in activated mouse oocytes. Small NPBs appeared about 4 h after ethanol activation, and took about 1.5 h to fuse into a large NPB, which persisted for about 10 h before disappearance. Analysis of the temporal windows for kinase action indicated that a high MAPK activity during the first 2 h and a low MPF activity during the first 3–4 h after activation were essential for subsequent NPB fusion. A preactivation decline in MAPK activity was associated with decreased NPB fusion following activation of aged oocytes. While MAPK inactivation by regulator U0126 prevented NPB fusion in oocytes activated by ethanol or 5 min Sr2+ treatments, it had no effect on oocytes fertilized or activated by 6 h Sr2+ treatment. In most cases, while rates of pronuclear formation did not differ, rates of NPB fusion differed significantly between different treatments. Our results suggest that: (i) the MAPK and MPF activities at the initial stage of activation regulate NPB fusion after pronuclear formation; (ii) pronuclear assembly and NPB fusion are two separable events that might be controlled by different mechanisms; and (iii) high MAPK activity and low MPF activity at the initial stage of activation is essential for NPB fusion when only one calcium rise is induced by ethanol, while inhibition of MAPK activity does not affect NPB fusion when the repetitive intracellular Ca2+ rises are induced after fertilization.
The tolerance of the oocyte plasma membrane (oolemma) to electrical pulses (TEP) was investigated for oocytes, zygotes, and embryos at the early and late 2-cell stage. The oocyte survival rate after two electrical pulses (1.4KV/cm for 640μs each) was used as an indicator of the TEP of the oolemma. Survival rate of mid-pronuclear zygotes (94.3%±2.3%) was significantly (p < 0.05) higher than that of recently ovulated (2.1%±1.9%) and in vivo aged (25.1%±2.6%) oocytes; survival rate of in vivo aged oocytes was also significantly higher than that of recently ovulated oocytes. Soon after fertilisation, the survival rate of the oocytes markedly increased, up to 94% at the mid-pronuclear stage. Survival ratedropped thereafter. These results suggest that the characteristics of the oocyte plasma membrane (oolemma) change after fertilisation.
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