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Concept: Reproductive system


Life history theory (LHT) predicts a trade-off between reproductive effort and the pace of biological aging. Energy invested in reproduction is not available for tissue maintenance, thus having more offspring is expected to lead to accelerated senescence. Studies conducted in a variety of non-human species are consistent with this LHT prediction. Here we investigate the relationship between the number of surviving children born to a woman and telomere length (TL, a marker of cellular aging) over 13 years in a group of 75 Kaqchikel Mayan women. Contrary to LHT’s prediction, women who had fewer children exhibited shorter TLs than those who had more children (p = 0.045) after controlling for TL at the onset of the 13-year study period. An “ultimate” explanation for this apparently protective effect of having more children may lay with human’s cooperative-breeding strategy. In a number of socio-economic and cultural contexts, having more chilren appears to be linked to an increase in social support for mothers (e.g., allomaternal care). Higher social support, has been argued to reduce the costs of further reproduction. Lower reproductive costs may make more metabolic energy available for tissue maintenance, resulting in a slower pace of cellular aging. At a “proximate” level, mechanisms involved may include the actions of the gonadal steroid estradiol, which increases dramatically during pregnancy. Estradiol is known to protect TL from the effects of oxidative stress as well as increase telomerase activity, an enzyme that maintains TL. Future research should explore the potential role of social support as well as that of estradiol and other potential biological pathways in the trade-offs between reproductive effort and the pace of cellular aging within and among human as well as in non-human populations.

Concepts: Reproduction, Metabolism, Reproductive system, Human, Telomerase, Organism, Telomere, Senescence


The decline of circulating testosterone levels in aging men is associated with adverse health effects. During studies of probiotic bacteria and obesity, we discovered that male mice routinely consuming purified lactic acid bacteria originally isolated from human milk had larger testicles and increased serum testosterone levels compared to their age-matched controls. Further investigation using microscopy-assisted histomorphometry of testicular tissue showed that mice consuming Lactobacillus reuteri in their drinking water had significantly increased seminiferous tubule cross-sectional profiles and increased spermatogenesis and Leydig cell numbers per testis when compared with matched diet counterparts This showed that criteria of gonadal aging were reduced after routinely consuming a purified microbe such as L. reuteri. We tested whether these features typical of sustained reproductive fitness may be due to anti-inflammatory properties of L. reuteri, and found that testicular mass and other indicators typical of old age were similarly restored to youthful levels using systemic administration of antibodies blocking pro-inflammatory cytokine interleukin-17A. This indicated that uncontrolled host inflammatory responses contributed to the testicular atrophy phenotype in aged mice. Reduced circulating testosterone levels have been implicated in many adverse effects; dietary L. reuteri or other probiotic supplementation may provide a viable natural approach to prevention of male hypogonadism, absent the controversy and side-effects of traditional therapies, and yield practical options for management of disorders typically associated with normal aging. These novel findings suggest a potential high impact for microbe therapy in public health by imparting hormonal and gonad features of reproductive fitness typical of much younger healthy individuals.

Concepts: Microbiology, Reproductive system, Bacteria, Sertoli cell, Probiotic, Testicle, Puberty, Lactobacillus


The majority of ovarian primordial follicles must be preserved in a quiescent state to allow for the regular production of gametes over the female reproductive lifespan. However, the molecular mechanism that maintains the long quiescence of primordial follicles is poorly understood. Under certain pathological conditions, the entire pool of primordial follicles matures simultaneously leading to an accelerated loss of primordial follicles and to premature ovarian failure (POF). We have previously shown that loss of Pten (phosphatase and tensin homolog deleted on chromosome ten) in mouse oocytes leads to premature activation of the entire pool of primordial follicles, subsequent follicular depletion in early adulthood, and the onset of POF. Lack of PTEN leads to increased phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI3K)-Akt and mammalian target of rapamycin complex 1 (mTORC1) signaling in the oocytes. To study the functional and pathological roles of elevated mTORC1 signaling in the oocytes, we treated the Pten-mutant mice with the specific mTORC1 inhibitor rapamycin. When administered to Pten-deficient mice prior to the activation of the primordial follicles, rapamycin effectively prevented global follicular activation and preserved the ovarian reserve. These results provide a rationale for exploring the possible use of rapamycin as a drug for the preservation of the primordial follicle pool, and the possible prevention of POF.

Concepts: Reproduction, Enzyme inhibitor, Menopause, Folliculogenesis, Poor ovarian reserve, Gynecology, Reproductive system, Premature ovarian failure


BACKGROUND: Plant grafting techniques have deepened our understanding of the signals facilitating communication between the root and shoot, as well as between shoot and reproductive organs. Transmissible signalling molecules can include hormones, peptides, proteins and metabolites: some of which travel long distances to communicate stress, nutrient status, disease and developmental events. While hypocotyl micrografting techniques have been successfully established for Arabidopsis to explore root to shoot communications, inflorescence grafting in Arabidopsis has not been exploited to the same extent. Two different strategies (horizontal and wedge-style inflorescence grafting) have been developed to explore long distance signalling between the shoot and reproductive organs. We developed a robust wedge-cleft grafting method, with success rates greater than 87%, by developing better tissue contact between the stems from the inflorescence scion and rootstock. We describe how to perform a successful inflorescence stem graft that allows for reproducible translocation experiments into the physiological, developmental and molecular aspects of long distance signalling events that promote reproduction. RESULTS: Wedge grafts of the Arabidopsis inflorescence stem were supported with silicone tubing and further sealed with parafilm to maintain the vascular flow of nutrients to the shoot and reproductive tissues. Nearly all (87%) grafted plants formed a strong union between the scion and rootstock. The success of grafting was scored using an inflorescence growth assay based upon the growth of primary stem. Repeated pruning produced new cauline tissues, healthy flowers and reproductive siliques, which indicates a healthy flow of nutrients from the rootstock. Removal of the silicone tubing showed a tightly fused wedge graft junction with callus proliferation. Histological staining of sections through the graft junction demonstrated the differentiation of newly formed vascular connections, parenchyma tissue and lignin accumulation, supporting the presumed success of the graft union between two sections of the primary inflorescence stem. CONCLUSIONS: We describe a simple and reliable method for grafting sections of an Arabidopsis inflorescence stem. This step-by-step protocol facilitates laboratories without grafting experience to further explore the molecular and chemical signalling which coordinates communications between the shoot and reproductive tissues.

Concepts: Rose, Reproductive system, Rootstock, Tomato grafting, Tree shaping, Plant stem, Plant reproduction, Grafting


trans-Epithelial delivery of medication across the vagina has proven successful for administration of small, lipophilic molecules such as sex steroids. However, little information is available regarding the vaginal delivery of larger and more polar molecules that currently require parenteral administration reflecting the bias that vaginal epithelium is a barrier to absorption of larger molecular weight (MW) molecules. Six healthy women underwent administration of 18 or 36mg of leuprolide, a GnRH agonist and a larger MW peptide, via a novel ethylene vinyl acetate (EVA) ring transvaginal drug delivery system (TVDS). Serum levels rose within 8h following insertion: low dose at 310pg/ml and high dose at 1220pg/ml, i.e. levels typically following parenteral injections of leuprolide. GnRHa biological activity was validated by secretion of gonadotropins and sex steroids. These results demonstrate that the non-keratinized vaginal epithelium permits a rapid absorption of a biologically active peptide and that there is significant potential for a novel TVDS to deliver peptides and possibly other macromolecules therapeutically.

Concepts: Pharmacology, Vagina, Human sexuality, Reproductive system, Peptide, Cervix, Molecule, Childbirth


Does the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology-European Society for Gynaecological Endoscopy (ESHRE-ESGE) classification of female genital tract malformations significantly increase the frequency of septate uterus diagnosis relative to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) classification?

Concepts: Reproductive system, Clitoris, Sexual reproduction, Female reproductive system, Female, Male, Human, Reproduction


Superovulation induced by exogenous gonadotropin treatment (PMSG/hCG) increases the number of available oocytes in humans and animals. However, Superovulatory PMSG/hCG treatment is known to affect maternal environment, and these effects may result from PMSG/hCG treatment-induced oxidative stress. 2-Cys peroxiredoxins (2-Cys Prxs) act as antioxidant enzymes that protect cells from oxidative stress induced by various exogenous stimuli. Therefore, the objective of this study was to test the hypothesis that repeated PMSG/hCG treatment induces 2-Cys Prx expression and overoxidation in the reproductive tracts of female mice. Immunohistochemistry and western blotting analyses further demonstrated that, after PMSG/hCG treatment, the protein expression levels of 2-Cys Prxs increased most significantly in the ovaries, while that of Prx1 was most affected by PMSG/hCG stimulation in all tissues of the female reproductive tract. Repeated PMSG/hCG treatment eventually leads to 2-Cys Prxs overoxidation in all reproductive organs of female mice, and the abundance of the 2-Cys Prxs-SO2/3 proteins reported here supports the hypothesis that repeated superovulation induces strong oxidative stress and damage to the female reproductive tract. Our data suggest that excessive oxidative stress caused by repeated PMSG/hCG stimulation increases 2-Cys Prxs expression and overoxidation in the female reproductive organs. Intracellular 2-Cys Prx therefore plays an important role in maintaining the reproductive organ environment of female mice upon exogenous gonadotropin treatment.

Concepts: Human, Organ, Reproduction, Sexual reproduction, Antioxidant, Sex organ, Molecular biology, Reproductive system


Sex-specific elaborations are common in animals and have attracted the attention of many biologists, including Darwin [1]. It is accepted that sexual selection promotes the evolution of sex-specific elaborations. Due to the faster replenishment rate of gametes, males generally have higher potential reproductive and optimal mating rates than females. Therefore, sexual selection acts strongly on males [2], leading to the rapid evolution and diversification of male genitalia [3]. Male genitalia are sometimes used as devices for coercive holding of females as a result of sexual conflict over mating [4, 5]. In contrast, female genitalia are usually simple. Here we report the reversal of intromittent organs in the insect genus Neotrogla (Psocodea: Prionoglarididae) from Brazilian caves. Females have a highly elaborate, penis-like structure, the gynosome, while males lack an intromittent organ. The gynosome has species-specific elaborations, such as numerous spines that fit species-specific pouches in the simple male genital chamber. During prolonged copulation (∼40-70 hr), a large and potentially nutritious ejaculate is transferred from the male via the gynosome. The correlated genital evolution in Neotrogla is probably driven by reversed sexual selection with females competing for seminal gifts. Nothing similar is known among sex-role reversed animals.

Concepts: Reproductive system, Female, Gamete, Male, Reproduction, Sexual intercourse, Penis, Sex


Greater time spent sedentary is linked with increased risk of breast, colorectal, ovarian, endometrial, and prostate cancers. Given steadily increasing rates of mobile phone ownership, mobile phone interventions may have the potential to broadly influence sedentary behavior across settings.

Concepts: Reproductive system, Obesity, Prostate cancer, Cancer, BRCA2, Mobile phone, Estrogen, Metastasis


Despite the well-documented benefits afforded the children of invested fathers in modern Western societies, some fathers choose not to invest in their children. Why do some men make this choice? Life History Theory offers an explanation for variation in parental investment by positing a trade-off between mating and parenting effort, which may explain some of the observed variance in human fathers' parenting behavior. We tested this hypothesis by measuring aspects of reproductive biology related to mating effort, as well as paternal nurturing behavior and the brain activity related to it. Both plasma testosterone levels and testes volume were independently inversely correlated with paternal caregiving. In response to viewing pictures of one’s own child, activity in the ventral tegmental area-a key component of the mesolimbic dopamine reward and motivation system-predicted paternal caregiving and was negatively related to testes volume. Our results suggest that the biology of human males reflects a trade-off between mating effort and parenting effort, as indexed by testicular size and nurturing-related brain function, respectively.

Concepts: Scientific method, Reproductive system, Scrotum, Parent, Testicle, Puberty, Reproduction, Sex