β-defensin peptides are a large family of antimicrobial peptides. Although they kill microbes in vitro and interact with immune cells, the precise role of these genes in vivo remains uncertain. Despite their inducible presence at mucosal surfaces, their main site of expression is the epididymis. Recent evidence suggests that a major function of these peptides is in sperm maturation. In addition to previous work suggesting this, work at the MRC Human Genetics Unit, Edinburgh, has shown that homozygous deletion of a cluster of nine β-defensin genes in the mouse results in profound male sterility. The spermatozoa derived from the mutants had reduced motility and increased fragility. Epididymal spermatozoa isolated from the cauda region of the homozygous mutants demonstrated precocious capacitation and increased spontaneous acrosome reactions compared with those from wild-types. Despite this, these mutant spermatozoa had reduced ability to bind to the zona pellucida of oocytes. Ultrastructural examination revealed a disintegration of the microtubule structure of mutant-derived spermatozoa isolated from the epididymal cauda region, but not from the caput. Consistent with premature acrosome reaction and hyperactivation, spermatozoa from mutant animals had significantly increased intracellular calcium content. This work demonstrates that in vivo β-defensins are essential for successful sperm maturation, and that their disruption alters intracellular calcium levels, which most likely leads to premature activation and spontaneous acrosome reactions that result in hyperactivation and loss of microtubule structure of the axoneme. Determining which of the nine genes are responsible for the phenotype and the relevance to human sperm function is important for future work on male infertility.
acrosome reaction; antimicrobial; capacitation; epididymis; sperm; β-defensins
A variety of glycosylphosphatidylinositol (GPI)-linked proteins are acquired on spermatozoa from epididymal luminal fluids (ELF) during sperm maturation. These proteins serve roles in immunoprotection and in key steps of fertilization such as capacitation, acrosomal exocytosis and sperm-egg interactions. Their acquisition on sperm cells is mediated both by membrane vesicles (epididymosomes, EP) which were first reported to dock on the sperm surface, and by lipid carriers which facilitate the transfer of proteins associated with the membrane-free fraction of ELF. While the nonvesicular fraction is more efficient, both pathways are dependent on hydrophobic interactions between the GPI-anchor and the external lipid layer of the sperm surface. More recently proteomic and hypothesis-driven studies have shown that EP from several mammals carry transmembrane (TM) proteins, including plasma membrane Ca2+-ATPase 4 (PMCA4). Synthesized in the testis, PMCA4 is an essential protein and the major Ca2+ efflux pump in murine spermatozoa. Delivery of PMCA4 to spermatozoa from bovine and mouse EP during epididymal maturation and in vitro suggests that the docking of EP on the sperm surface precedes fusion, and experimental evidence supports a fusogenic mechanism for TM proteins. Fusion is facilitated by CD9, which generates fusion–competent sites on membranes. On the basis of knowledge of PMCA4's interacting partners a number of TM and membrane-associated proteins have been identified or are predicted to be present, in the epididymosomal cargo deliverable to spermatozoa. These Ca2+-dependent proteins, undetected in proteomic studies, play essential roles in sperm motility and fertility, and their detection highlights the usefulness of the hypothesis-driven approach.
epididymal maturation; epididymal secretory proteins; GPI-linked proteins; lipid carrier; membrane-associated proteins; PMCA4; transmembrane proteins
Ribonucleic acid (RNA) was previously thought to remain inside cells as an intermediate between genes and proteins during translation. However, it is now estimated that 98% of the mammalian genomic output is transcribed as noncoding RNAs, which are involved in diverse gene expression regulatory mechanisms and can be transferred from one cell to another through extracellular communication. For instance, microRNAs are 22-nucleotide-long noncoding RNAs that are generated by endonuclease cleavage of precursors inside the cells and are secreted as extracellular microRNAs to regulate target cell posttranscriptional gene expression via RNA interference. We and others have shown that different populations of microRNAs are expressed in distinct regions of the human epididymis and regulate the expression of target genes that are involved in the control of male fertility as indicated by knock-out mouse models. Importantly, some microRNAs, including the microRNA-888 (miR-888) cluster that is exclusively expressed in the reproductive system of human and nonhuman primates, are released in the sperm-surrounding fluid in the epididymis via extracellular vesicles, the so-called epididymosomes. In addition to interacting with the membrane of maturing spermatozoa, these extracellular vesicles containing microRNAs communicate with epithelial cells located downstream from their release site, suggesting a role in the luminal exocrine control of epididymal functions. Apart from their potential roles as mediators of intercellular communication within the epididymis, these extracellular microRNAs are potent molecular targets for the noninvasive diagnosis of male infertility.
Dicer; epididymis; exocrine factors; extracellular vesicles; intercellular communication; microRNAs; paracrine regulation; posttranscriptional gene regulation; seminal plasma; spermatozoa
Dicer1 is an RNase III enzyme necessary for microRNA (miRNA) biogenesis, as it cleaves pre-miRNAs into mature miRNAs. miRNAs are important regulators of gene expression. In recent years, several miRNA-independent roles of Dicer1 have been identified. They include the production of endogenous small interfering RNAs, detoxifying retrotransposon-derived transcripts, and binding to new targets; messenger RNAs and long noncoding RNAs. Further, in this review, the functional significance of Dicer1 in the male reproductive tract is discussed. Conditional Dicer1 knock-out mouse models have demonstrated a requisite role for Dicer in male fertility. Deletion of Dicer1 from somatic or germ cells in the testis cause spermatogenic problems rendering male mice infertile. The lack of Dicer1 in the proximal epididymis causes dedifferentiation of the epithelium, with unbalanced sex steroid receptor expression, defects in epithelial lipid homeostasis, and subsequent male infertility. In addition, Dicer1 ablation from the prostate leads to increased apoptosis of the differentiated luminal cells, followed by epithelial hypotrophy of the ventral prostate. However, further studies are needed to clarify which functions of Dicer1 are responsible for the observed phenotypes in the male reproductive tract.
Dicer 1; epididymis; prostate; seminal vesicle; testis; vas deferens
Cholesterol is a key molecule in the mammalian physiology of especial particular importance for the reproductive system as it is the common precursor for steroid hormone synthesis. Cholesterol is also a recognized modulator of sperm functions, not only at the level of gametogenesis. Cholesterol homeostasis regulation is crucial for posttesticular sperm maturation, and imbalanced cholesterol levels may particularly affect these posttesticular events. Metabolic lipid disorders (dyslipidemia) affect male fertility but are most of the time studied from the angle of endocrine/testicular consequences. This review will focus on the deleterious effects of a particular dyslipidemia, i.e., hypercholesterolemia, on posttesticular maturation of mammalian spermatozoa.
cholesterol; dyslipidemia; epididymis; fertility; posttesticular maturation; spermatozoa
The development of the Wolffian/epididymal duct is crucial for proper function and, therefore, male fertility. The development of the epididymis is complex; the initial stages form as a transient embryonic kidney; then the mesonephros is formed, which in turn undergoes extensive morphogenesis under the influence of androgens and growth factors. Thus, understanding of its full development requires a wide and multidisciplinary view. This review focuses on mouse models that display abnormalities of the Wolffian duct and mesonephric development, the importance of these mouse models toward understanding male reproductive tract development, and how these models contribute to our understanding of clinical abnormalities in humans such as congenital anomalies of the kidney and urinary tract (CAKUT).
epididymis; mesonephros; transgenic mice; Wolffian duct
polymers offer a powerful opportunity to develop theranostic
materials on the size scale of proteins that can provide targeting,
imaging, and therapeutic functionality. Achieving this goal requires
the presence of multiple targeting molecules, dyes, and/or drugs on
the polymer scaffold. This critical review examines the synthetic,
analytical, and functional challenges associated with the heterogeneity
introduced by conjugation reactions as well as polymer scaffold design.
First, approaches to making multivalent polymer conjugations are discussed
followed by an analysis of materials that have shown particular promise
biologically. Challenges in characterizing the mixed ligand distributions
and the impact of these distributions on biological applications are
then discussed. Where possible, molecular-level interpretations are
provided for the structures that give rise to the functional ligand
and molecular weight distributions present in the polymer scaffolds.
Lastly, recent strategies employed for overcoming or minimizing the
presence of ligand distributions are discussed. This review focuses
on multivalent polymer scaffolds where average stoichiometry and/or
the distribution of products have been characterized by at least one
experimental technique. Key illustrative examples are provided for
scaffolds that have been carried forward to in vitro and in vivo testing with significant biological
A significant number of patients with atrial fibrillation, treated with oral anticoagulants, present with an acute coronary syndrome. Many of these patients have an indication for coronary angiography. The introduction of non-vitamin K antagonist oral anticoagulants (NOACs) and the novel P2Y12 inhibitors has generated new uncertainty about the optimal treatment regimen, whether triple or dual therapy should be given and which is the most beneficial P2Y12 inhibitor (clopidogrel, ticagrelor, prasugrel). In this article, we will summarise the practical advice on the management of acute coronary syndrome patients requiring oral anticoagulants following the recent consensus document of the European Society of Cardiology (ESC) Working Group on Thrombosis in association with the European Heart Rhythm Association (EHRA) and ESC guidelines.
Oral anticoagulation; NOAC; Heparin; Bivalirudin; Prasugrel; Ticagrelor
Motivation: With the advent of relatively affordable high-throughput technologies, DNA sequencing of cancers is now common practice in cancer research projects and will be increasingly used in clinical practice to inform diagnosis and treatment. Somatic (cancer-only) single nucleotide variants (SNVs) are the simplest class of mutation, yet their identification in DNA sequencing data is confounded by germline polymorphisms, tumour heterogeneity and sequencing and analysis errors. Four recently published algorithms for the detection of somatic SNV sites in matched cancer–normal sequencing datasets are VarScan, SomaticSniper, JointSNVMix and Strelka. In this analysis, we apply these four SNV calling algorithms to cancer–normal Illumina exome sequencing of a chronic myeloid leukaemia (CML) patient. The candidate SNV sites returned by each algorithm are filtered to remove likely false positives, then characterized and compared to investigate the strengths and weaknesses of each SNV calling algorithm.
Results: Comparing the candidate SNV sets returned by VarScan, SomaticSniper, JointSNVMix2 and Strelka revealed substantial differences with respect to the number and character of sites returned; the somatic probability scores assigned to the same sites; their susceptibility to various sources of noise; and their sensitivities to low-allelic-fraction candidates.
Availability: Data accession number SRA081939, code at http://code.google.com/p/snv-caller-review/
Supplementary data are available at Bioinformatics online.
Motivation: Many biological systems operate in a similar manner across a large number of species or conditions. Cross-species analysis of sequence and interaction data is often applied to determine the function of new genes. In contrast to these static measurements, microarrays measure the dynamic, condition-specific response of complex biological systems. The recent exponential growth in microarray expression datasets allows researchers to combine expression experiments from multiple species to identify genes that are not only conserved in sequence but also operated in a similar way in the different species studied.
Results: In this review we discuss the computational and technical challenges associated with these studies, the approaches that have been developed to address these challenges and the advantages of cross-species analysis of microarray data. We show how successful application of these methods lead to insights that cannot be obtained when analyzing data from a single species. We also highlight current open problems and discuss possible ways to address them.