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BACKGROUND - Vertebrate retinal development is a complex process, requiring the specification and maintenance of retinal identity, proliferative expansion of retinal progenitor cells (RPCs), and their differentiation into retinal neurons and glia. The homeobox gene Vsx2 is expressed in RPCs and required for the proper execution of this retinal program. However, our understanding of the mechanisms by which Vsx2 does this is still rudimentary. To define the autonomy requirements for Vsx2 in the regulation of RPC properties, we generated chimeric mouse embryos comprised of wild-type and Vsx2-deficient cells.
RESULTS - We show that Vsx2 maintains retinal identity in part through the cell-autonomous repression of the retinal pigment epithelium determinant Mitf, and that Lhx2 is required cell autonomously for the ectopic Mitf expression in Vsx2-deficient cells. We also found significant cell-nonautonomous contributions to Vsx2-mediated regulation of RPC proliferation, pointing to an important role for Vsx2 in establishing a growth-promoting extracellular environment. Additionally, we report a cell-autonomous requirement for Vsx2 in controlling when neurogenesis is initiated, indicating that Vsx2 is an important mediator of neurogenic competence. Finally, the distribution of wild-type cells shifted away from RPCs and toward retinal ganglion cell precursors in patches of high Vsx2-deficient cell density to potentially compensate for the lack of fated precursors in these areas.
CONCLUSIONS - Through the generation and analysis of genetic chimeras, we demonstrate that Vsx2 utilizes both cell-autonomous and cell-nonautonomous mechanisms to regulate progenitor properties in the embryonic retina. Importantly, Vsx2's role in regulating Mitf is in part separable from its role in promoting proliferation, and proliferation is excluded as the intrinsic timer that determines when neurogenesis is initiated. These findings highlight the complexity of Vsx2 function during retinal development and provide a framework for identifying the molecular mechanisms mediating these functions.
Mammalian mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) is inherited principally down the maternal line, but the mechanisms involved are not fully understood. Females harboring a mixture of mutant and wild-type mtDNA (heteroplasmy) transmit a varying proportion of mutant mtDNA to their offspring. In humans with mtDNA disorders, the proportion of mutated mtDNA inherited from the mother correlates with disease severity. Rapid changes in allele frequency can occur in a single generation. This could be due to a marked reduction in the number of mtDNA molecules being transmitted from mother to offspring (the mitochondrial genetic bottleneck), to the partitioning of mtDNA into homoplasmic segregating units, or to the selection of a group of mtDNA molecules to re-populate the next generation. Here we show that the partitioning of mtDNA molecules into different cells before and after implantation, followed by the segregation of replicating mtDNA between proliferating primordial germ cells, is responsible for the different levels of heteroplasmy seen in the offspring of heteroplasmic female mice.
Pregnancy begins with fertilization of the ovulated oocyte by the sperm. After fertilization, the egg undergoes time-dependent mitotic division while trying to reach the blastocyst stage and the uterus for implantation. Uterine preparation for implantation is regulated by coordinated secretions and functions of ovarian sex steroids. The first sign of contact between the blastocyst and the uterus can be detected experimentally by an intravenous blue dye injection as early as the end of day 4 or the beginning of day 5 of pregnancy. This blastocyst-uterine attachment reaction leads to stromal decidual reaction only at sites of implantation. The process of implantation can be postponed and reinstated experimentally by manipulating ovarian estrogen secretion. Stromal decidualization can also be induced experimentally in the hormonally prepared uterus in response to stimuli other than the embryo. Fundamental biological questions surrounding these essential features of early pregnancy can be addressed through the application of various techniques and manipulation of this period of early pregnancy. This chapter describes the routine laboratory methodologies to study the events of early pregnancy, with special emphasis on the implantation process in mice.
OBJECTIVE - An association between assisted reproductive technique (ART) and specific imprinting mutations, such as Beckwith-Wiedemann syndrome (BWS), has recently been documented. Based on experiments in farm animals that demonstrated an association between alterations in culture media during ART and large offspring syndrome, we hypothesized that the culture media could be implicated as a common factor among the children with BWS conceived after ART.
DESIGN - Retrospective case series.
SETTING - Registry from Academic Medical Center.
PATIENT(S) - Nineteen children born after ART were identified within the registry.
MAIN OUTCOME MEASURE(S) - Demographics of patients, type of ART, culture media, IVF parameters.
RESULT(S) - Twelve of the 19 medical records from the reproductive endocrine centers were successfully obtained. Ten of 12 mothers of children with BWS had IVF, but no single, consistent culture media was used in this group. Half of the patients underwent IVF with intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI; n = 5), whereas the other half had routine IVF. One child was conceived through clomiphene citrate (CC) stimulation and artificial insemination, whereas another patient conceived through gonadotropin stimulation with intrauterine insemination (IUI). The gonadotropin dosage and quantity of embryos transferred also varied significantly. The only consistent finding was that all 12 women received some type of ovarian stimulation medication.
CONCLUSION(S) - Large epidemiologic studies are needed to further study the association between BWS and ART.
Ectopic pregnancy is a major reproductive health issue. Although other underlying causes remain largely unknown, one cause of ectopic pregnancy is embryo retention in the fallopian tube. Here we show that genetic or pharmacologic silencing of cannabinoid receptor CB1 causes retention of a large number of embryos in the mouse oviduct, eventually leading to pregnancy failure. This is reversed by isoproterenol, a beta-adrenergic receptor agonist. Impaired oviductal embryo transport is also observed in wild-type mice treated with methanandamide. Collectively, the results suggest that aberrant cannabinoid signaling impedes coordinated oviductal smooth muscle contraction and relaxation crucial to normal oviductal embryo transport. Colocalization of CB1 and beta2-adrenergic receptors in the oviduct muscularis implies that a basal endocannabinoid tone in collaboration with adrenergic receptors coordinates oviductal motility for normal journey of embryos into the uterus. Besides uncovering a new regulatory mechanism, this study could be clinically relevant to ectopic pregnancy.
Previous observations of ovulation and fertilization defects in cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2)-deficient mice suggested that COX-2-derived ovarian prostaglandins (PGs) participate in these events. However, the specific PG and its mode of action were unknown. Subsequent studies revealed that mice deficient in EP(2), a PGE(2)-receptor subtype, have reduced litter size, apparently resulting from poor ovulation but more dramatically from impaired fertilization. Using a superovulation regimen and in vitro culture system, we demonstrate herein that the ovulatory process, not follicular growth, oocyte maturation, or fertilization, is primarily affected in adult COX-2- or EP(2)-deficient mice. Furthermore, our results show that in vitro-matured and -fertilized eggs are capable of subsequent preimplantation development. However, severely compromised ovulation in adult COX-2- or EP(2)-deficient mice is not manifested in immature (3-wk-old) COX-2- or EP(2)-deficient mice, suggesting that the process of ovulation is more dependent on PGs in adult mice. Although the processes of implantation and decidualization are defective in COX-2(-/-) mice, our present results demonstrate that these events are normal in EP(2)-deficient mice, as determined by embryo transfer and experimentally induced decidualization. Collectively, previous and present results suggest that whereas COX-2-derived PGE(2) is essential for ovulation via activation of EP(2), COX-2-derived prostacyclin is involved in implantation and decidualization via activation of peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor delta.
Cyclooxygenase (COX)-derived prostaglandins (PGs) regulate numerous maternal-fetal interactions during pregnancy. PGs stimulate uterine contractions and prepare the cervix for parturition, whereas in the fetus, PGs maintain patency of the ductus arteriosus (DA), a vascular shunt that transmits oxygenated placental blood to the fetal systemic circulation. However, the origin and site of action of these PGs remain undefined. To address this, we analyzed mice lacking COX-1 (null mutation) or COX-2 (pharmacologic inhibition) or pups with a double null mutation. Our results show that COX-1 in the uterine epithelium is the major source of PGs during labor and that COX-1(-/-) females experience parturition failure that is reversible by exogenous PGs. Using embryo transfer experiments, we also show that successful delivery occurs in COX-1(-/-) recipient mothers carrying wild-type pups, establishing the sufficiency of fetal PGs for parturition. Although patency of the DA is PG dependent, neither COX-1 nor COX-2 expression was detected in the fetal or postnatal DA, and offspring with a double null mutation died shortly after birth with open DAs. These results suggest that DA patency depends on circulating PGs acting on specific PG receptors within the DA. Collectively, these findings demonstrate the coordinated regulation of fetal and maternal PGs at the time of birth but raise concern regarding the use of selective COX inhibitors for the management of preterm labor.