[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Embryonic diapause, the temporary suspension of development of the embryo, is a fascinating reproductive strategy that has been frequently exploited across the animal kingdom. It is characterized by an arrest in development that occurs at the blastocyst stage in over 130 species of mammals. Its presumed function is to uncouple mating from parturition, to ensure that both occur at the most propitious moment for survival of the species. Diapause can be facultative, i.e. induced by physiological conditions, or obligate, i.e. present in every gestation of a species. In the latter case, the proximal signals for regulation are related to photoperiod. Three diverse models, the mouse, the mustelid carnivores and the wallaby have been studied in detail. From these studies it can be discerned that, although the endocrine cues responsible for induction of diapause and re-initiation of development vary widely between species, there are a number of commonalities. Evidence to date indicates that the uterus exercises the proximal regulatory influence over whether an embryo enters into and when it exits from diapause. Some factors have been identified that appear crucial to this regulation, in particular, the polyamines. Recent studies indicate that diapause can be induced in species where it does not exist in nature. This suggests that the potential for diapause in mammals to be due to a single evolutionary event, to which control mechanisms adapted when the trait was beneficial to reproductive success. Further work at the molecular, cellular and organismic levels will be required before the physiological basis of diapause is resolved.
The International Journal of Developmental Biology 01/2014; 58(2-3-4):163-174. · 2.61 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Mammalian embryonic diapause is a phenomenon defined by the temporary arrest in blastocyst growth and metabolic activity within the uterus which synchronously becomes quiescent to blastocyst activation and implantation. This reproductive strategy temporally uncouples conception from parturition until environmental or maternal conditions are favourable for the survival of the mother and newborn. The underlying molecular mechanism by which the uterus and embryo temporarily achieve quiescence, maintain blastocyst survival and then resume blastocyst activation with subsequent implantation remains unknown. Here, we show that uterine expression of Msx1 or Msx2, members of an ancient, highly conserved homeobox gene family, persists in three unrelated mammalian species during diapause, followed by rapid downregulation with blastocyst activation and implantation. Mice with uterine inactivation of Msx1 and Msx2 fail to achieve diapause and reactivation. Remarkably, the North American mink and Australian tammar wallaby share similar expression patterns of MSX1 or MSX2 as in mice-it persists during diapause and is rapidly downregulated upon blastocyst activation and implantation. Evidence from mouse studies suggests that the effects of Msx genes in diapause are mediated through Wnt5a, a known transcriptional target of uterine Msx. These studies provide strong evidence that the Msx gene family constitutes a common conserved molecular mediator in the uterus during embryonic diapause to improve female reproductive fitness.
Open Biology 01/2013; 3(4):130035. · 3.27 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Early marsupial conceptuses differ markedly from those of eutherian mammals, especially during cleavage and early blastocyst stages of development. Additionally, in marsupials the zona pellucida is surrounded by two acellular layers, the mucoid coat and shell, which are formed from secretions from the reproductive tract.
We report the identification of a novel postovulatory coat component in marsupials, which we call uterinesecreted microprotein (USM). USM belongs to a family of disulfide-rich microproteins of unconfirmed function that is found throughout deuterostomes and in some protostomes, and includes β-microseminoprotein (MSMB) and prostate-associated microseminoprotein (MSMP). We describe the evolution of this family in detail, including USM-related sequences in other vertebrates. The orthologue of USM in the tammar wallaby, USM1, is expressed by the endometrium with a dynamic temporal profile, possibly under the control of progesterone.
USM appears to have evolved in a mammalian ancestor specifically as a component of the postovulatory coats. By analogy with the known properties of MSMB, it may have roles in regulating sperm motility/survival or in the immune system. However, its C-terminal domain is greatly truncated compared with MSMB, suggesting a divergent function.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: In developing mammalian males, conversion of the Wolffian ducts into the epididymides and vasa deferentia depends on androgen secretion by the testes, whereas in females these ducts remain in a vestigial form or regress. However, there is continuing uncertainty whether the androgen needs to be delivered locally, either by diffusion from the adjacent testis or, by secretion into the lumen of the duct, or whether circulating androgens maintain and virilize the Wolffian ducts. To resolve this uncertainty, we transplanted either day 0-2 or day 8-9 post-partum testes beneath the flank skin of three groups of neonatal (days 0-1) female tammar wallabies, where they developed and secreted physiological levels of hormones. The Wolffian ducts of all these females were retained and had formed extensive epididymides when examined at days 25, 34 and 87 after birth. In the two older groups of females, sampled after the time of prostatic bud formation, the urogenital sinus was virilized and there was extensive prostatic development similar to that of normal males of the same age, showing that androgen secretion had occurred. Virilization of the Wolffian ducts occurred during an early but short-lived window of sensitivity. This study provides the first clear evidence that under physiological conditions virilization can be mediated by circulating androgen.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Dihydrotestosterone in androgen target tissues is formed under most circumstances by the 5alpha-reduction of testosterone, but an alternate pathway involves the oxidation of androstanediol to dihydrotestosterone. To investigate the mechanism by which androgens virilize the Wolffian ducts in the tammar wallaby, [(3)H]progesterone was incubated with testes from d 10 and 19 pouch young, and radioactivity was recovered in testosterone and androstanediol at both ages. Analysis of the intermediates indicates that androstanediol was formed both from testosterone via 5alpha-reduction and 3alpha-keto reduction and directly from 5alpha-reduced progestogens. 5alpha-Reductase activity was high in minces of mesonephros/epididymis from d 6-21 pouch young. When minces of urogenital tract tissues from d 19 pouch young were incubated with [(3)H]testosterone, [(3)H]dihydrotestosterone, and [(3)H]androstanediol, dihydrotestosterone was the principal androgen formed in the mesonephros/epididymis, urogenital sinus, and urogenital tubercle, whereas androstanediol was the principal androgen formed by the testis. In intact pouch young studied between d 10 and 34, administration of the 5alpha-reductase inhibitor, 17beta-(N,N-diethyl)carbamoyl-4-methyl-4-aza-5alpha-androstan-3-one, blocked virilization of the Wolffian ducts in males, and administration of androstanediol caused virilization of the Wolffian ducts in females. We conclude that dihydrotestosterone, largely formed in the tissue by the oxidation of androstanediol derived from the testes and also the 5alpha-reduction of testosterone, is responsible for Wolffian duct virilization in this species.