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Linlin Su, Dolores D Mruk and C Yan Cheng

The blood–testis barrier (BTB), which is created by adjacent Sertoli cells near the basement membrane, serves as a ‘gatekeeper’ to prohibit harmful substances from reaching developing germ cells, most notably postmeiotic spermatids. The BTB also divides the seminiferous epithelium into the basal and adluminal (apical) compartment so that postmeiotic spermatid development, namely spermiogenesis, can take place in a specialized microenvironment in the apical compartment behind the BTB. The BTB also contributes, at least in part, to the immune privilege status of the testis, so that anti-sperm antibodies are not developed against antigens that are expressed transiently during spermatogenesis. Recent studies have shown that numerous drug transporters are expressed by Sertoli cells. However, many of these same drug transporters are also expressed by spermatogonia, spermatocytes, round spermatids, elongating spermatids, and elongated spermatids, suggesting that the developing germ cells are also able to selectively pump drugs ‘in’ and/or ‘out’ via influx or efflux pumps. We review herein the latest developments regarding the role of drug transporters in spermatogenesis. We also propose a model utilized by the testis to protect germ cell development from ‘harmful’ environmental toxicants and xenobiotics and/or from ‘therapeutic’ substances (e.g. anticancer drugs). We also discuss how drug transporters that are supposed to protect spermatogenesis can work against the testis in some instances. For example, when drugs (e.g. male contraceptives) that can perturb germ cell adhesion and/or maturation are actively pumped out of the testis or are prevented from entering the apical compartment, such as by efflux pumps.

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Linlin Su, Dolores D Mruk, Will M Lee and C Yan Cheng

The blood–testis barrier (BTB) creates an immunological barrier that segregates the seminiferous epithelium into the basal and apical compartment. Thus, meiosis I/II and post-meiotic germ cell development take place in a specialized microenvironment in the apical compartment behind the BTB and these events are being shielded from the host immune system. If unwanted drugs and/or chemicals enter the apical compartment from the microvessels in the interstitium via the basal compartment, efflux pumps (e.g. P-glycoprotein) located in Sertoli cells and/or spermatids can actively transport these molecules out of the apical compartment. However, the mechanism(s) by which influx pumps regulate the entry of drugs/chemicals into the apical compartment is not known. In this study, a solute carrier (SLC) transporter organic anion transporting polypeptide 3 (Oatp3, Slco1a5) was shown to be an integrated component of the N-cadherin-based adhesion complex at the BTB. However, a knockdown of Oatp3 alone or in combination with three other major Sertoli cell drug influx pumps, namely Slc22a5, Slco6b1, and Slco6c1, by RNAi using corresponding specific siRNA duplexes failed to perturb the Sertoli cell tight junction (TJ) permeability barrier function. Yet, the transport of [3H]adjudin, a potential male contraceptive that is considered a toxicant to spermatogenesis, across the BTB was impeded following the knockdown of either Oatp3 or all the four SLC transporters. In short, even though drug transporters (e.g. influx pumps) are integrated components of the adhesion protein complexes at the BTB, they are not involved in regulating the Sertoli cell TJ permeability barrier function, instead they are only involved in the transport of drugs, such as adjudin, across the immunological barrier at the BTB.

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Zhiguo Liu, Chun Yan Lim, Michelle Yu-Fah Su, Stephanie Li Ying Soh, Guanghou Shui, Markus R Wenk, Kevin L Grove, George K Radda, Weiping Han and Xiaoqiu Xiao

Neonatal overnutrition results in accelerated development of high-fat diet (HFD)-induced metabolic defects in adulthood. To understand whether the increased susceptibility was associated with aggravated inflammation and dysregulated lipid metabolism, we studied metabolic changes and insulin signaling in a chronic postnatal overnutrition (CPO) mouse model. Male Swiss Webster pups were raised with either three pups per litter to induce CPO or ten pups per litter as control (CTR) and weaned to either low-fat diet (LFD) or HFD. All animals were killed on the postnatal day 150 (P150) except for a subset of mice killed on P15 for the measurement of stomach weight and milk composition. CPO mice exhibited accelerated body weight gain and increased body fat mass prior to weaning and the difference persisted into adulthood under conditions of both LFD and HFD. As adults, insulin signaling was more severely impaired in epididymal white adipose tissue (WAT) from HFD-fed CPO (CPO–HFD) mice. In addition, HFD-induced upregulation of pro-inflammatory cytokines was exaggerated in CPO–HFD mice. Consistent with greater inflammation, CPO–HFD mice showed more severe macrophage infiltration than HFD-fed CTR (CTR–HFD) mice. Furthermore, when compared with CTR–HFD mice, CPO–HFD mice exhibited reduced levels of several lipogenic enzymes in WAT and excess intramyocellular lipid accumulation. These data indicate that neonatal overnutrition accelerates the development of insulin resistance and exacerbates HFD-induced metabolic defects, possibly by worsening HFD-induced inflammatory response and impaired lipid metabolism.

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Ya Liu, Xiaoqing Zhou, Ye Xiao, Changjun Li, Yan Huang, Qi Guo, Tian Su, Lei Fu and Liping Luo

Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is becoming the most prevalent liver disease worldwide, is characterized by liver steatosis and is often accompanied with other pathological features such as insulin resistance. However, the underlying mechanisms are not fully understood, and specific pharmacological agents need to be developed. Here, we investigated the role of microRNA-188 (miR-188) as a negative regulator in hepatic glucose and lipid metabolism. miR-188 was upregulated in the liver of obese mice. Loss of miR-188 alleviated diet-induced hepatosteatosis and insulin resistance. In contrast, liver-specific overexpression of miR-188 aggravated hepatic steatosis and insulin resistance during high-fat diet feeding. Mechanistically, we found that the negative effects of miR-188 on lipid and glucose metabolism were mediated by the autophagy pathway via targeting autophagy-related gene 12 (Atg12). Furthermore, suppressing miR-188 in the liver of obese mice improved liver steatosis and insulin resistance. Taken together, our findings reveal a new regulatory role of miR-188 in glucose and lipid metabolism through the autophagy pathway, and provide a therapeutic insight for NAFLD.

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Wenqi Chen, Siyu Lu, Chengshun Yang, Na Li, Xuemei Chen, Junlin He, Xueqing Liu, Yubin Ding, Chao Tong, Chuan Peng, Chen Zhang, Yan Su, Yingxiong Wang and Rufei Gao

Previous research on the role of insulin has focused on metabolism. This study investigated the effect of insulin on angiogenesis in endometrial decidualization. High insulin-treated mouse model was constructed by subcutaneous injection of insulin. Venous blood glucose, serum insulin, P4, E2, FSH and LH levels in the pregnant mice were detected by ELISA. Decidual markers, angiogenesis factors and decidual vascular network were detected during decidualization in the pregnant mouse model and an artificially induced decidualization mouse model. Tube formation ability and angiogenesis factors expression were also detected in high insulin-treated HUVECS cells. To confirm whether autophagy participates in hyperinsulinemia-impaired decidual angiogenesis, autophagy was detected in vivo and in vitro. During decidualization, in the condition of high insulin, serum insulin and blood glucose were significantly higher, while ovarian steroid hormones were also disordered (P < 0.05), decidual markers BMP2 and PRL were significantly lower (P < 0.05). Uterine CD34 staining showed that the size of the vascular sinus was significantly smaller than that in control. Endometrial VEGFA was significantly decreased after treatment with high insulin in vivo and in vitro (P < 0.05), whereas ANG-1 and TIE2 expression was significantly increased (P < 0.05). In addition, aberrant expression of autophagy markers revealed that autophagy participates in endometrial angiogenesis during decidualization (P < 0.05). After treatment with the autophagy inhibitor 3-MA in HUVEC, the originally damaged cell tube formation ability and VEGFA expression were repaired. This study suggests that endometrial angiogenesis during decidualization was impaired by hyperinsulinemia in early pregnant mice.

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Yan Su, Sujuan Guo, Chunyan Liu, Na Li, Shuang Zhang, Yubin Ding, Xuemei Chen, Junlin He, Xueqing Liu, Yingxiong Wang and Rufei Gao

Embryo implantation is essential for normal pregnancy. Decidualization is known to facilitate embryo implantation and maintain pregnancy. Uterine stromal cells undergo transformation into decidual cells after embryo attachment to the endometrium. Pyruvate kinase M2 (PKM2) is a rate limiting enzyme in the glycolysis process which catalyzes phosphoenolpyruvic acid into pyruvate. However, little is known regarding the role of PKM2 during endometrial decidualization. In this study, PKM2 was found to be mainly located in the uterine glandular epithelium and luminal epithelium on day 1 and day 4 of pregnancy and strongly expressed in the decidual zone after embryo implantation. PKM2 was dramatically increased with the onset of decidualization. Upon further exploration, PKM2 was found to be more highly expressed at the implantation sites than at the inter-implantation sites on days 5 to 7 of pregnancy. PKM2 expression was also significantly increased after artificial decidualization both in vivo and in vitro. After PKM2 expression was knocked down by siRNA, the number of embryo implantation sites in mice on day 7 of pregnancy was significantly reduced, and the decidualization markers BMP2 and Hoxa10 were also obviously downregulated in vivo and in vitro. Downregulated PKM2 could also compromise cell proliferation in primary endometrial stromal cells and in Ishikawa cells. The migration rate of Ishikawa cells was also obviously suppressed by si-PKM2 according to the wound healing assay. In conclusion, PKM2 might play an important role in decidualization during early pregnancy, and cell proliferation might be one pathway for PKM2 regulated decidualization.