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Concept: Meiosis


Sperm are highly differentiated and the activities that reprogram them for embryonic development during fertilization have historically been considered unique to the oocyte. We here challenge this view and demonstrate that mouse embryos in the mitotic cell cycle can also directly reprogram sperm for full-term development. Developmentally incompetent haploid embryos (parthenogenotes) injected with sperm developed to produce healthy offspring at up to 24% of control rates, depending when in the embryonic cell cycle injection took place. This implies that most of the first embryonic cell cycle can be bypassed in sperm genome reprogramming for full development. Remodelling of histones and genomic 5'-methylcytosine and 5'-hydroxymethylcytosine following embryo injection were distinct from remodelling in fertilization and the resulting 2-cell embryos consistently possessed abnormal transcriptomes. These studies demonstrate plasticity in the reprogramming of terminally differentiated sperm nuclei and suggest that different epigenetic pathways or kinetics can establish totipotency.

Concepts: Meiosis, Genetics, Gene, Developmental biology, Embryology, Zygote, Embryo, Cell nucleus


Development of assisted reproductive technologies (ART) in the dog has resisted progress for decades, due to their unique reproductive physiology. This lack of progress is remarkable given the critical role ART could play in conserving endangered canid species or eradicating heritable disease through gene-editing technologies-an approach that would also advance the dog as a biomedical model. Over 350 heritable disorders/traits in dogs are homologous with human conditions, almost twice the number of any other species. Here we report the first live births from in vitro fertilized embryos in the dog. Adding to the practical significance, these embryos had also been cryopreserved. Changes in handling of both gametes enabled this progress. The medium previously used to capacitate sperm excluded magnesium because it delayed spontaneous acrosome exocytosis. We found that magnesium significantly enhanced sperm hyperactivation and ability to undergo physiologically-induced acrosome exocytosis, two functions essential to fertilize an egg. Unlike other mammals, dogs ovulate a primary oocyte, which reaches metaphase II on Days 4-5 after the luteinizing hormone (LH) surge. We found that only on Day 6 are oocytes consistently able to be fertilized. In vitro fertilization of Day 6 oocytes with sperm capacitated in medium supplemented with magnesium resulted in high rates of embryo development (78.8%, n = 146). Intra-oviductal transfer of nineteen cryopreserved, in vitro fertilization (IVF)-derived embryos resulted in seven live, healthy puppies. Development of IVF enables modern genetic approaches to be applied more efficiently in dogs, and for gamete rescue to conserve endangered canid species.

Concepts: Ovulation, Meiosis, Reproduction, Canidae, Zygote, Spermatozoon, Dog, In vitro fertilisation


Previous studies have revealed that mouse primordial germ cells (PGCs) undergo genome-wide DNA methylation reprogramming to reset the epigenome for totipotency. However, the precise 5-methylcytosine (5mC) dynamics and its relationship with the generation of 5-hydroxymethylcytosine (5hmC) are not clear. Here we analyzed the dynamics of 5mC and 5hmC during PGC reprograming and germ cell development. Unexpectedly, we found a specific period (E8.5-9.5) during which both 5mC and 5hmC levels are low. Subsequently, 5hmC levels increase reaching its peak at E11.5 and gradually decrease until E13.5 likely by replication-dependent dilution. Interestingly, 5hmC is enriched in chromocenters during this period. While this germ cell-specific 5hmC subnuclear localization pattern is maintained in female germ cells even in mature oocytes, such pattern is gradually lost in male germ cells as mitotic proliferation resumes during the neonatal stage. Pericentric 5hmC plays an important role in silencing major satellite repeat, especially in female PGCs. Global transcriptome analysis by RNA-seq revealed that the great majority of differentially expressed genes from E9.5 to 13.5 are upregulated in both male and female PGCs. Although only female PGCs enter meiosis during the prenatal stage, meiosis-related and a subset of imprinted genes are significantly upregulated in both male and female PGCs at E13.5. Thus, our study not only reveals the dynamics of 5mC and 5hmC during PGC reprogramming and germ cell development, but also their potential role in epigenetic reprogramming and transcriptional regulation of meiotic and imprinted genes.Cell Research advance online publication 12 February 2013; doi:10.1038/cr.2013.22.

Concepts: Cellular differentiation, DNA methylation, Epigenetics, Meiosis, Gene, Germ cell, DNA, Gene expression


The purpose of this study was to observe in vitro matured equine oocytes with an objective computerized technique which involve the use of a polarized light microscope (PLM) in addition to the subjective morphological evaluation obtained using a classic light microscope (LM). Equine cumulus-oocyte complexes (COCs, n=922) were subjected to different in vitro maturation times (24, 36, or 45 h), but only 36-h matured oocytes were analyzed using PLM. The 36-h matured oocytes that reached maturity were parthenogenetically activated to evaluate quality and meiotic competence. Average maturation percentages per session in groups 1, 2, and 3 (24-, 36- and 45-h matured oocytes, respectively) were 29.31±13.85%, 47.01±9.90%, and 36.62±5.28%, whereas the average percentages of immature oocytes per session were 28.78±20.17%, 7.83±5.51%, and 22.36±8.39%, respectively. The zona pellucida (ZP) birefringent properties were estimated and correlated with activation outcome. ZP thickness and retardance of the inner layer of the zona pellucida (IL-ZP) were significantly increased in immature oocytes compared with mature oocytes (p<0.001 and p<0.01, respectively). The comparison between parthenogenetically activated and non-activated oocytes showed a significant increase in the area and thickness of the IL-ZP in parthenogenetically activated oocytes (p<0.01). These results show that the 36-h IVM protocol allowed equine oocytes to reach maturity, and PLM observation of ZP can be used to distinguish mature and immature oocytes as well as activated and non-activated oocytes.

Concepts: Optics, Birefringence, Zona pellucida, Polarization, Meiosis, Oocyte, Microscope, Microscopy


Egg activation refers to events required for transition of a gamete into an embryo, including establishment of the polyspermy block, completion of meiosis, entry into mitosis, selective recruitment and degradation of maternal mRNA, and pronuclear development. Here we show that zinc fluxes accompany human egg activation. We monitored calcium and zinc dynamics in individual human eggs using selective fluorophores following activation with calcium-ionomycin, ionomycin, or hPLCζ cRNA microinjection. These egg activation methods, as expected, induced rises in intracellular calcium levels and also triggered the coordinated release of zinc into the extracellular space in a prominent “zinc spark.” The ability of the gamete to mount a zinc spark response was meiotic-stage dependent. Moreover, chelation of intracellular zinc alone was sufficient to induce cell cycle resumption and transition of a meiotic cell into a mitotic one. Together, these results demonstrate critical functions for zinc dynamics and establish the zinc spark as an extracellular marker of early human development.

Concepts: Interphase, Gamete, Chromatid, Cell nucleus, Cell cycle, Mitosis, Meiosis, Chromosome


A pharmacologic approach to male contraception remains a longstanding challenge in medicine. Toward this objective, we explored the spermatogenic effects of a selective small-molecule inhibitor (JQ1) of the bromodomain and extraterminal (BET) subfamily of epigenetic reader proteins. Here, we report potent inhibition of the testis-specific member BRDT, which is essential for chromatin remodeling during spermatogenesis. Biochemical and crystallographic studies confirm that occupancy of the BRDT acetyl-lysine binding pocket by JQ1 prevents recognition of acetylated histone H4. Treatment of mice with JQ1 reduced seminiferous tubule area, testis size, and spermatozoa number and motility without affecting hormone levels. Although JQ1-treated males mate normally, inhibitory effects of JQ1 evident at the spermatocyte and round spermatid stages cause a complete and reversible contraceptive effect. These data establish a new contraceptive that can cross the blood:testis boundary and inhibit bromodomain activity during spermatogenesis, providing a lead compound targeting the male germ cell for contraception. PAPERCLIP:

Concepts: Spermatozoon, Puberty, Sertoli cell, Nucleosome, Enzyme inhibitor, Sperm, Histone, Meiosis


Maternal and paternal high-fat (HF) diet intake before and/or during pregnancy increases mammary cancer risk in several preclinical models. We studied if maternal consumption of a HF diet that began at a time when the fetal primordial germ cells travel to the genital ridge and start differentiating into germ cells would result in a transgenerational inheritance of increased mammary cancer risk.

Concepts: Pregnancy, Germ cells, Meiosis, Fatty acids, Germ cell, Essential fatty acid, Nutrition, Gene


Mutations in mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) are maternally inherited and can cause fatal or debilitating mitochondrial disorders. The severity of clinical symptoms is often associated with the level of mtDNA mutation load or degree of heteroplasmy. Current clinical options to prevent transmission of mtDNA mutations to offspring are limited. Experimental spindle transfer in metaphase II oocytes, also called mitochondrial replacement therapy, is a novel technology for preventing mtDNA transmission from oocytes to pre-implantation embryos. Here, we report a female carrier of Leigh syndrome (mtDNA mutation 8993T > G), with a long history of multiple undiagnosed pregnancy losses and deaths of offspring as a result of this disease, who underwent IVF after reconstitution of her oocytes by spindle transfer into the cytoplasm of enucleated donor oocytes. A male euploid blastocyst wasobtained from the reconstituted oocytes, which had only a 5.7% mtDNA mutation load. Transfer of the embryo resulted in a pregnancy with delivery of a boy with neonatal mtDNA mutation load of 2.36-9.23% in his tested tissues. The boy is currently healthy at 7 months of age, although long-term follow-up of the child’s longitudinal development remains crucial.

Concepts: Meiosis, Human mitochondrial genetics, Zygote, Pregnancy, DNA, Mitochondrion, Mitochondrial disease, Mitochondrial DNA


Meiotic drivers are selfish genes that bias their transmission into gametes, defying Mendelian inheritance. Despite the significant impact of these genomic parasites on evolution and infertility, few meiotic drive loci have been identified or mechanistically characterized. Here, we demonstrate a complex landscape of meiotic drive genes on chromosome 3 of the fission yeasts Schizosaccharomyces kambucha and S. pombe. We identify S. kambucha wtf4 as one of these genes that acts to kill gametes (known as spores in yeast) that do not inherit the gene from heterozygotes. wtf4 utilizes dual, overlapping transcripts to encode both a gamete-killing poison and an antidote to the poison. To enact drive, all gametes are poisoned, whereas only those that inherit wtf4 are rescued by the antidote. Our work suggests that the wtf multigene family proliferated due to meiotic drive and highlights the power of selfish genes to shape genomes, even while imposing tremendous costs to fertility.

Concepts: Genome, Meiosis, Cell nucleus, Chromosome, Evolution, Yeast, Genetics, Gene


Mouse oocytes respond to DNA damage by arresting in meiosis I through activity of the Spindle Assembly Checkpoint (SAC) and DNA Damage Response (DDR) pathways. It is currently not known if DNA damage is the primary trigger for arrest, or if the pathway is sensitive to levels of DNA damage experienced physiologically. Here, using follicular fluid from patients with the disease endometriosis, which affects 10% of women and is associated with reduced fertility, we find raised levels of Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS), which generate DNA damage and turn on the DDR-SAC pathway. Only follicular fluid from patients with endometriosis, and not controls, produced ROS and damaged DNA in the oocyte. This activated ATM kinase, leading to SAC mediated metaphase I arrest. Completion of meiosis I could be restored by ROS scavengers, showing this is the primary trigger for arrest and offering a novel clinical therapeutic treatment. This study establishes a clinical relevance to the DDR induced SAC in oocytes. It helps explain how oocytes respond to a highly prevalent human disease and the reduced fertility associated with endometriosis.

Concepts: Oocyte, Chromosome, DNA repair, Kinetochore, Folliculogenesis, Polar body, Meiosis, Cell cycle