Purpose Carrier screening (CS) is a term used to describe a genetic test performed on individuals without family history of genetic disorders, to investigate the carrier status for pathogenic variants associated with multiple recessive conditions. The advent of next-generation sequencing enabled simultaneous CS for an increasing number of conditions; however, a consensus on which diseases to include in gene panels and how to best develop the provision of CS is far to be reached. Therefore, the provision of CS is jeopardized and inconsistent and requires solving several important issues. Methods In 2020, the Italian Society of Human Genetics (SIGU) established a working group composed of clinical and laboratory geneticists from public and private fields to elaborate a document to define indications and best practice of CS provision for couples planning a pregnancy. Results Hereby, we present the outcome of the Italian working group’s activity and compare it with previously published international recommendations (American College of Medical Genetics and Genomics (ACMG), American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), and Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RANZCOG)). We determine a core message on genetic counseling and nine main subject categories to explore, spanning from goals and execution to technical scientific, ethical, and socio-economic topics. Moreover, a level of agreement on the most critical points is discussed using a 5-point agreement scale, demonstrating a high level of consensus among the four societies. Conclusions This document is intended to provide genetic and healthcare professionals involved in human reproduction with guidance regarding the clinical implementation of CS.
STUDY QUESTION Which genes regulate receptivity in the epithelial and stromal cellular compartments of the human endometrium, and which molecules are interacting in the implantation process between the blastocyst and the endometrial cells? SUMMARY ANSWER A set of receptivity-specific genes in the endometrial epithelial and stromal cells was identified, and the role of galectins (LGALS1 and LGALS3), integrin β1 (ITGB1), basigin (BSG), and osteopontin (SPP1) in embryo-endometrium dialogue among many other protein-protein interactions were highlighted. WHAT IS KNOWN ALREADY The molecular dialogue taking place between the human embryo and the endometrium is poorly understood due to ethical and technical reasons, leaving human embryo implantation mostly uncharted. STUDY DESIGN, SIZE, DURATION Paired pre-receptive and receptive phase endometrial tissue samples from 16 healthy women were used for RNA sequencing. Trophectoderm RNA sequences were from blastocysts. PARTICIPANTS/MATERIALS, SETTING, METHODS Cell-type-specific RNA-seq analysis of freshly isolated endometrial epithelial and stromal cells using fluorescence activated cell sorting (FACS) from 16 paired pre-receptive and receptive tissue samples was performed. Endometrial transcriptome data were further combined in silico with trophectodermal gene expression data from 466 single cells originating from 17 blastocysts to characterise the first steps of embryo implantation. We constructed a protein-protein interaction network between endometrial epithelial and embryonal trophectodermal cells, and between endometrial stromal and trophectodermal cells, thereby focusing on the very first phases of embryo implantation, and highlighting the molecules likely to be involved in the embryo apposition, attachment and invasion. MAIN RESULTS AND THE ROLE OF CHANCE In total, 499 epithelial and 581 stromal genes were up-regulated in the receptive phase endometria when compared to pre-receptive samples. The constructed protein-protein interactions identified a complex network of 558 prioritized protein-protein interactions between trophectodermal, epithelial and stromal cells, which were grouped into clusters based on the function of the involved molecules. The role of galectins (LGALS1 and LGALS3), integrin β1 (ITGB1), basigin (BSG), and osteopontin (SPP1) in the embryo implantation process were highlighted. LARGE SCALE DATA RNA-seq data are available at www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/geo under accession number GSE97929. LIMITATIONS, REASONS FOR CAUTION Providing a static snap-shot of a dynamic process and the nature of prediction analysis is limited to the known interactions available in databases. Further, the cell sorting technique used separated enriched epithelial cells and stromal cells but did not separate luminal from glandular epithelium. Also, the use of biopsies taken from non-pregnant women and using spare in-vitro fertilization (IVF) embryos (due to ethical considerations) might miss some of the critical interactions characteristic of natural conception only. WIDER IMPLICATIONS OF THE FINDINGS The findings of our study provide new insights into the molecular embryo-endometrium interplay in the first steps of implantation process in human. Knowledge about the endometrial cell-type-specific molecules that coordinate successful implantation is vital for understanding human reproduction and the underlying causes of implantation failure and infertility. Our study results provide a useful resource for future reproductive research, allowing the exploration of unknown mechanisms of implantation. We envision that those studies will help to improve the understanding of the complex embryo implantation process, and hopefully generate new prognostic and diagnostic biomarkers and therapeutic approaches to target both infertility and fertility, in the form of new contraceptives. STUDY FUNDING/COMETING INTEREST(S) This research was funded by the Estonian Research Council (grant PRG1076); Horizon 2020 innovation grant (ERIN, grant no. EU952516); Enterprise Estonia (grant EU48695); the EU-FP7 Marie Curie Industry-Academia Partnerships and Pathways (IAPP, grant SARM, EU324509); Spanish Ministry of Economy, Industry and Competitiveness (MINECO) and European Regional Development Fund (FEDER) (grants RYC-2016-21199 and ENDORE SAF2017-87526-R); Spanish Ministry of Science, Innovation and Universities (PRE2018-0854409); Programa Operativo FEDER Andalucía (B-CTS-500-UGR18; A-CTS-614-UGR20), Junta de Andalucía (PAIDI P20_00158); Margarita Salas program for the Requalification of the Spanish University system (UJAR01MS); the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation (KAW 2015.0096); Swedish Research Council (2012-2844); and Sigrid Jusélius Foundation; Academy of Finland. A.S-L. is funded by the Spanish Ministry of Science, Innovation and Universities (PRE2018-085440). K.G.D has received consulting fees and/or honoraria from RemovAid AS, Norway Bayer, MSD, Gedeon Richter, Mithra, Exeltis, MedinCell, Natural cycles, Exelgyn, Vifor, Organon, Campus Pharma and HRA-Pharma and NIH support to the institution; D.B is an employee of IGENOMIX. The rest of the authors declare no conflict of interest.
Anthracycline-induced cardiotoxicity is the most severe collateral effect of chemotherapy originated by an excess of oxidative stress in cardiomyocytes that leads to cardiac dysfunction. We assessed clinical data from patients with breast cancer receiving anthracyclines and searched for discriminating microRNAs between patients that developed cardiotoxicity (cases) and those that did not (controls), using RNA sequencing and regression analysis. Serum levels of 25 microRNAs were differentially expressed in cases versus controls within the first year after anthracycline treatment, as assessed by three different regression models (elastic net, Robinson and Smyth exact negative binomial test and random forest). MiR-4732-3p was the only microRNA identified in all regression models and was downregulated in patients that experienced cardiotoxicity. MiR-4732-3p was also present in neonatal rat cardiomyocytes and cardiac fibroblasts and was modulated by anthracycline treatment. A miR-4732-3p mimic was cardioprotective in cardiac and fibroblast cultures, following doxorubicin challenge, in terms of cell viability and ROS levels. Notably, administration of the miR-4732-3p mimic in doxorubicin-treated rats preserved cardiac function, normalized weight loss, induced angiogenesis, and decreased apoptosis, interstitial fibrosis and cardiac myofibroblasts. At the molecular level, miR-4732-3p regulated genes of TGFβ and Hippo signaling pathways. Overall, the results indicate that miR-4732-3p is a novel biomarker of cardiotoxicity that has therapeutic potential against anthracycline-induced heart damage.
The most important factor associated with oocytes’ developmental competence has been widely identified as the presence of chromosomal abnormalities. However, growing application of genome-wide sequencing (GS) in population diagnostics has enabled the identification of multifactorial genetic predispositions to sub-lethal pathologies, including those affecting IVF outcomes and reproductive fitness. Indeed, GS analysis in families with history of isolated infertility has recently led to the discovery of new genes and variants involved in specific human infertility endophenotypes that impact the availability and the functionality of female gametes by altering unique mechanisms necessary for oocyte maturation and early embryo development. Ongoing advancements in analytical and bioinformatic pipelines for the study of the genetic determinants of oocyte competence may provide the biological evidence required not only for improving the diagnosis of isolated female infertility but also for the development of novel preventive and therapeutic approaches for reproductive failure. Here, we provide an updated discussion and review of the progresses made in preconception genomic medicine in the identification of genetic factors associated with oocyte availability, function, and competence.
The endometrium is a highly regenerative tissue that regenerates every month after each menstrual cycle. Its main function is to enable implantation of the embryo at the right moment. If implantation of the embryo does not occur, the endometrium is partially destroyed and menstruation takes place, producing a new generation of tissue (upper 2/3) in the next menstrual cycle. This endometrial renewal (‘self-renewal’) is mostly regulated by hormones during 400–500 cycles during a woman’s reproductive lifetime. Only tissues with high cellular turnover, such as epidermis, gut epithelium, and bone marrow, have this high cellular turnover. An increasing amount of evidence supports that this process is regulated by endometrium-derived stem cells (EDSCs) . Histologically, the endometrium is divided in two functional layers: the basal and functional layers. The functional layer responds to progesterone and estradiol, and this layer is completely shed during menstruation. The basal layer does not respond to hormones and also does not suffer desquamation, from which it regenerates the mucosa. Recent studies  have described the transcriptomic signature of the endometrium at a single cell level, showing that the endometrium is composed of six major cell types including ciliated and non-ciliated epithelia, stromal cells, endothelial cells, lymphocytes, and macrophages. Interestingly, in this study, four major phases of endometrial transformation are described and provide evidence for direct interplay between stromal fibroblasts and lymphocytes during decidualization, and an abrupt transcriptomic opening of the window of implantation takes place at mid-secretory phase in unciliated epithelial cells.
Chromosome imbalance (aneuploidy) is the major cause of pregnancy loss and congenital disorders in humans. Analyses of small biopsies from human embryos suggest that aneuploidy commonly originates during early divisions, resulting in mosaicism. However, the developmental potential of mosaic embryos remains unclear. We followed the distribution of aneuploid chromosomes across 73 unselected preimplantation embryos and 365 biopsies, sampled from four multifocal trophectoderm (TE) samples and the inner cell mass (ICM). When mosaicism impacted fewer than 50% of cells in one TE biopsy (low-medium mosaicism), only 1% of aneuploidies affected other portions of the embryo. A double-blinded prospective non-selection trial (NCT03673592) showed equivalent live-birth rates and miscarriage rates across 484 euploid, 282 low-grade mosaic, and 131 medium-grade mosaic embryos. No instances of mosaicism or uniparental disomy were detected in the ensuing pregnancies or newborns, and obstetrical and neonatal outcomes were similar between the study groups. Thus, low-medium mosaicism in the trophectoderm mostly arises after TE and ICM differentiation, and such embryos have equivalent developmental potential as fully euploid ones.
Background Decidualization of the uterine mucosa drives the maternal adaptation to invasion by the placenta. Appropriate depth of placental invasion is needed to support a healthy pregnancy; shallow invasion is associated with the development of severe preeclampsia (sPE). Maternal contribution to sPE through failed decidualization is an important determinant of placental phenotype. However, the molecular mechanism underlying the in vivo defect linking decidualization to sPE is unknown. Methods Global RNA sequencing was applied to obtain the transcriptomic profile of endometrial biopsies collected from nonpregnant women who suffer sPE in a previous pregnancy and women who did not develop this condition. Samples were randomized in two cohorts, the training and the test set, to identify the fingerprinting encoding defective decidualization in sPE and its subsequent validation. Gene Ontology enrichment and an interaction network were performed to deepen in pathways impaired by genetic dysregulation in sPE. Finally, the main modulators of decidualization, estrogen receptor 1 ( ESR1 ) and progesterone receptor B ( PGR-B ), were assessed at the level of gene expression and protein abundance. Results Here, we discover the footprint encoding this decidualization defect comprising 120 genes—using global gene expression profiling in decidua from women who developed sPE in a previous pregnancy. This signature allowed us to effectively segregate samples into sPE and control groups. ESR1 and PGR were highly interconnected with the dynamic network of the defective decidualization fingerprint. ESR1 and PGR-B gene expression and protein abundance were remarkably disrupted in sPE. Conclusions Thus, the transcriptomic signature of impaired decidualization implicates dysregulated hormonal signaling in the decidual endometria in women who developed sPE. These findings reveal a potential footprint that could be leveraged for a preconception or early prenatal screening of sPE risk, thus improving prevention and early treatments. Funding This work has been supported by the grant PI19/01659 (MCIU/AEI/FEDER, UE) from the Spanish Carlos III Institute awarded to TGG. NCM was supported by the PhD program FDGENT/2019/008 from the Spanish Generalitat Valenciana. IMB was supported by the PhD program PRE2019-090770 and funding was provided by the grant RTI2018-094946-B-100 (MCIU/AEI/FEDER, UE) from the Spanish Ministry of Science and Innovation with CS as principal investigator. This research was funded partially by Igenomix S.L.
Background Since 2011, screening maternal blood for cell-free foetal DNA (cffDNA) fragments has offered a robust clinical tool to classify pregnancy as low or high-risk for Down, Edwards, and Patau syndromes. With recent advances in molecular biology and improvements in data analysis algorithms, the screening’s scope of analysis continues to expand. Indeed, screening now encompassess additional conditions, including aneuploidies for sex chromosomes, microdeletions and microduplications, rare autosomal trisomies, and, more recently, segmental deletions and duplications called copy number variations (CNVs). Yet, the ability to detect CNVs creates a new challenge for cffDNA analysis in couples in which one member carries a structural rearrangement such as a translocation or inversion. Case presentation We report a segmental duplication of the long arm of chromosome 3 and a segmental deletion of the short arm of chromosome 5 detected by cffDNA analysis in a 25-year-old pregnant woman. The blood sample was sequenced on a NextSeq 550 (Illumina) using the VeriSeq NIPT Solution v1 assay. G-band karyotyping in amniotic fluid only detected an abnormality in chromosome 5. Next-generation sequencing in amniocytes confirmed both abnormalities and identified breakpoints in 3q26.32q29 and 5p13.3p15. The foetus died at 21 weeks of gestation due to multiple abnormalities, and later G-band karyotyping in the parents revealed that the father was a carrier of a balanced reciprocal translocation [46,XY,t(3;5)(q26.2;p13)]. Maternal karyotype appeared normal. Conclusion This case provides evidence that extended cffDNA can detect, in addition to aneuploidies for whole chromosomes, large segmental aneuploidies. In some cases, this may indicate the presence of chromosomal rearrangements in a parent. Such abnormalities are outside the scope of standard cffDNA analysis targeting chromosomes 13, 18, 21, X, and Y, potentially leading to undiagnosed congenital conditions.
This article summarises and contextualises the accumulated basic and clinical data on the ERA test and addresses specific comments and opinions presented by the opponent as part of an invited debate. Progress in medicine depends on new technologies and concepts that translate to practice to solve long-standing problems. In a key example, combining RNA sequencing data (transcriptomics) with artificial intelligence (AI) led to a clinical revolution in personalising disease diagnosis and fostered the concept of precision medicine. The reproductive field is no exception. Translation of endometrial transcriptomics to the clinic yielded an objective definition of the limited time period during which the maternal endometrium is receptive to an embryo, known as the window of implantation (WOI). The WOI is induced by the presence of exogenous and/or endogenous progesterone (P) after proper oestradiol (E2) priming. The window lasts 30–36 hours and, depending on the patient, occurs between LH + 6 and LH + 9 in natural cycles or between P + 4 and P + 7 in hormonal replacement therapy (HRT) cycles. In approximately 30% of IVF cycles in which embryo transfer is performed blindly, the WOI is displaced and embryo-endometrial synchrony is not achieved. Extending this application of endometrial transcriptomics, the endometrial receptivity analysis (ERA) test couples next-generation sequencing (NGS) to a computational predictor to identify transcriptomic signatures for each endometrial stage: proliferative (PRO), pre-receptive (PRE), receptive (R) and post-receptive (POST). In this way, personalised embryo transfer (pET) may be possible by synchronising embryo transfer with each patient’s WOI. Data are the only way to confront arguments sustained in opinions and/or misleading concepts; it is up to the reader to make their own conclusions regarding its clinical utility.
Background Since 2011, screening maternal blood for cell-free foetal DNA (cffDNA) fragments has offered a robust clinical tool to classify pregnancy as low or high-risk for Down, Edwards, and Patau syndromes. With recent advances in molecular biology and improvements in data analysis algorithms, the screening’s scope of analysis continues to expand. Indeed, screening now encompassess additional conditions, including aneuploidies for sex chromosomes, microdeletions and microduplications, rare autosomal trisomies, and, more recently, segmental deletions and duplications called copy number variations (CNVs). Yet, the ability to detect CNVs creates a new challenge for cffDNA analysis in couples in which one member carries a structural rearrangement such as a translocation or inversion.Case presentationWe report a segmental duplication of the long arm of chromosome 3 and a segmental deletion of the short arm of chromosome 5 detected by cffDNA analysis in a 25-year-old pregnant woman. G-band karyotyping in amniotic fluid only detected an abnormality in chromosome 5. Next-generation sequencing in amniocytes confirmed both abnormalities and identified breakpoints in 3q26.32q29 and 5p13.3p15. The foetus died at 21 weeks of gestation due to multiple abnormalities, and later G-band karyotyping in the parents revealed that the father was a carrier of a balanced reciprocal translocation [46,XY,t(3;5)(q26.2;p13)]. Maternal karyotype appeared normal.Conclusion This case provides evidence that extended cffDNA can detect, in addition to aneuploidies for whole chromosomes, large segmental aneuploidies. In some cases, this may indicate the presence of chromosomal rearrangements in a parent. Such abnormalities are outside the scope of standard cffDNA analysis targeting chromosomes 13, 18, 21, X, and Y, potentially leading to undiagnosed congenital conditions.
Objective To provide full morphokinetic characterization of embryos ranked with different degrees of chromosomal mosaicism. Design Retrospective cohort study. Setting University-affiliated private in vitro fertilization clinic. Patient(s) We analyzed 1,511 embryos from 424 intracytoplasmic sperm injection cycles by culturing embryos in a time-lapse imaging system and performing next-generation sequencing. We assessed 106 mosaic embryos. Intervention(s) None. Main Outcome Measure(s) Comparison of chromosomal, morphological, and morphokinetic characteristics of blastocysts classified as euploid, aneuploid, low-degree mosaic (30% to <50% aneuploid cells in trophectoderm biopsy), and high-degree mosaic (50% to <70% aneuploid cells in trophectoderm biopsy). Statistical analysis was performed using χ², Kruskal-Wallis, or analysis of variance tests according to data type and distribution. A two-way random effects model was used to calculate interoperator correlation of annotations, and a logistic mixed effect model was performed to evaluate the effect of confounders on morphokinetic timing. Result(s) The mosaicism rate was ∼7% regardless of parental age. Mosaicism and uniform aneuploidies were not evenly distributed across chromosomes. The percentage of high-quality blastocysts significantly decreased from euploid (66.9%) to mosaic (52.8%) and aneuploid (47.7%). Aneuploid blastocysts significantly delayed development compared with euploid blastocysts in start of compaction (median, 84.72 hours postmicroinjection [hpm], interquartile range [IQR], 13.2; vs. median, 82.10 hpm, IQR, 11.5), start of blastulation (median, 101 hpm; IQR, 11.7; vs. median, 98.29 hpm, IQR, 10.5), and timing of blastocyst (median, 108.04 hpm, IQR, 11.50; vs. median, 104.71 hpm, IQR, 11.35). However, embryo morphokinetics were not correlated to the degree of mosaicism or to a mosaicism configuration that was apt for embryo transfer. Conclusion(s) Morphokinetic timing of mosaic embryos overlaps with that of euploid and aneuploid embryos, which may reflect their unique genetic and developmental identity. Although this suggests mosaic embryos are not simply a misdiagnosis by-product, further studies are needed to reveal the true identity of this particular type of embryo.
A clear definition of developmentally incompetent preimplantation embryo (DIPE) in literature is still missing, while several scientific societies are discussing this challenging topic. From both a clinical and scientific perspective, the identification of embryos unfit for reproductive purpose is crucial. This aim should be pursued in light of all diagnostic technologies for embryo evaluation, encompassing also genetic analyses, of recent implementation in IVF. The Italian context is characterized by an unusual scenario: embryos can be discarded only if not viable and cannot be used for research purposes either. Therefore, thousands of embryos, diagnosed as affected and/or aneuploid as resulting from preimplantation genetic testing (PGT) and clinically not utilizable, are cryopreserved and stored indefinitely, with important psychological, legal, and financial implications. With the aim of updating the definition of DIPE, also on the basis of the embryo genetic status, the Italian Society of Embryology, Reproduction and Research (SIERR) and the Italian Society of Human Genetic (SIGU) reviewed the literature on this topic, found a consensus, and produced a list of relevant criteria.
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