BackgroundWe have earlier reported that follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) modulates ovarian stem cells which include pluripotent, very small embryonic-like stem cells (VSELs) and their immediate descendants ‘progenitors’ termed ovarian germ stem cells (OGSCs), lodged in adult mammalian ovarian surface epithelium (OSE). FSH may exert pleiotropic actions through its alternatively spliced receptor isoforms. Four isoforms of FSH receptors (FSHR) are reported in literature of which FSH-R1 and FSH-R3 have biological activity. Present study was undertaken to identify FSHR isoforms mediating FSH action on ovarian stem cells, using sheep OSE cells culture as the study model.MethodsCultures of sheep OSE cells (a mix of epithelial cells, VSELs, OGSCs and few contaminating red blood cells) were established with and without FSH 5IU/ml treatment. Effect of FSH treatment on self-renewal of VSELs and their differentiation into OGSCs was studied after 15 hrs by qRT-PCR using markers specific for VSELs (Oct-4A, Sox-2) and OGSCs (Oct-4). FSH receptors and its specific transcripts (R1 and R3) were studied after 3 and 15 hrs of FSH treatment by immunolocalization, in situ hybridization and qRT-PCR. FSHR and OCT-4 were also immuno-localized on sheep ovarian sections, in vitro matured follicles and early embryos.ResultsFSH treatment resulted in increased stem cells self-renewal and clonal expansion evident by the appearance of stem cell clusters. FSH receptors were expressed on ovarian stem cells whereas the epithelial cells were distinctly negative. An increase in R3 mRNA transcripts was noted after 3 hrs of FSH treatment and was reduced to basal levels by 15 hrs, whereas R1 transcript expression remained unaffected. Both FSHR and OCT-4 were immuno-localized in nuclei of stem cells, showed nuclear or ooplasmic localization in oocytes of primordial follicles and in cytoplasm of granulosa cells in growing follicles.ConclusionsFSH modulates ovarian stem cells via FSH-R3 to undergo potential self-renewal, clonal expansion as ‘cysts’ and differentiation into oocytes. OCT-4 and FSHR proteins (required initially to maintain pluripotent state of VSELs and for FSH action respectively) gradually shift from nuclei to cytoplasm of developing oocytes and are later possibly removed by surrounding granulosa cells as the oocyte prepares itself for fertilization.
The transcription factor octamer-binding transforming factor 4 (Oct-4) is central to the gene regulatory network responsible for self-renewal, pluripotency, and lineage commitment in embryonic stem (ES) cells and induced pluripotent stem cells (PSCs). This study was undertaken to evaluate differential localization and expression of two major transcripts of Oct-4, viz. Oct-4A and Oct-4B, in adult human testis. A novel population of 5- to 10-μm PSCs with nuclear Oct-4A was identified by ISH and immunolocalization studies. Besides Oct-4, other pluripotent markers like Nanog and TERT were also detected by RT-PCR. A(dark) spermatogonial stem cells (SSCs) were visualized in pairs and chains undergoing clonal expansion and stained positive for cytoplasmic Oct-4B. Quantitative PCR and Western blotting revealed both the transcripts, with higher expression of Oct-4B. It is proposed that PSCs undergo asymmetric cell division and give rise to A(dark) SSCs, which proliferate and initiate lineage-specific differentiation. The darkly stained nuclei in A(dark) SSCs may represent extensive nuclear reprogramming by epigenetic changes when a PSC becomes committed. Oct-4B eventually disappeared in mature germ cells, viz. spermatocytes, spermatids, and sperm. Besides maintaining normal testicular homeostasis, PSCs may also be implicated in germ cell tumors and ES-like colonies that have recently been derived from adult human testicular tissue.
The purpose of the study was to examine the occurrence of programmed cell death (apoptosis) in normal and chromosomally aneuploid testis and ovaries during the second trimester of human development. Such information may be useful in understanding normal and abnormal germ cell development and disorders associated with infertility in adult life. Apoptosis was studied by terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase-mediated dUTP nick-end labelling (TUNEL) analysis in human fetal ovaries (n = 16) and testis (n = 14) between 9 and 23 weeks of development, in ovaries of four Turner's syndrome fetuses (45X) and in the gonad of an XO/XY fetus. In normal fetal testis, a small proportion of germ cells, Sertoli cells and Leydig cells undergo apoptosis. In normal fetal ovaries, some developing oocytes and granulosa cells were detected as TUNEL positive. Semiquantitative analysis of fetal ovaries revealed that approximately 3-7% of oocytes were apoptotic. In abnormal fetal testis (XO/XY genotype). TUNEL analysis revealed that only germ cells not enclosed in seminiferous tubules undergo apoptosis. TUNEL analysis of the Turner's syndrome (45X) ovaries studied at 15 and 20 weeks of development revealed massive apoptosis of the oocytes. Nearly 50-70% of the oocytes were TUNEL positive in these ovaries. These results suggest that germ cell apoptosis is a common event occurring during development of human gonads. Chromosomal defects by some means accelerates apoptosis that probably leads to gonadal dysgenesis later in life.
This study was undertaken to investigate stem cells in adult mouse ovary, the effect of chemotherapy on them and their potential to differentiate into germ cells. Very small embryonic-like stem cells (VSELs) that were SCA-1þ/LinÀ/CD45À, positive for nuclear octamer-binding transforming factor 4 (OCT-4), Nanog, and cell surface stage-specific embryonic antigen 1, were identified in adult mouse ovary. Chemotherapy resulted in complete loss of follicular reserve and cytoplasmic OCT-4 positive progenitors (ovarian germ stem cells) but VSELs survived. In ovarian surface epithelial (OSE) cell cultures from chemoablated ovary, proliferating germ cell clusters and mouse vasa homolog/growth differentiation factor 9-positive oocyte-like structure were observed by day 6, probably arising as a result of differentiation of the surviving VSELs. Follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) exerted a direct stimulatory action on the OSE and induced stem cells proliferation and differentiation into premeiotic germ cell clusters during intact chemoablated ovaries culture. The FSH analog pregnant mare serum gonadotropin treatment to chemoablated mice increased the percentage of surviving VSELs in ovary. The results of this study provide evidence for the presence of potential VSELs in mouse ovaries and show that they survive chemotherapy, are modulated by FSH, and retain the ability to undergo oocyte-specific differentiation. These results show relevance to women who undergo premature ovarian failure because of oncotherapy.
Very small embryonic-like stem cells (VSELs) are possibly lost during cord blood banking and bone marrow (BM) processing for autologus stem cell therapy mainly because of their small size. The present study was conducted on human umbilical cord blood (UCB, n=6) and discarded red blood cells (RBC) fraction obtained after separation of mononuclear cells from human BM (n=6), to test this hypothesis. The results show that VSELs, which are pluripotent stem cells with maximum regenerative potential, settle along with the RBCs during Ficoll-Hypaque density separation. These cells are very small in size (3-5 μm), have high nucleo-cytoplasmic ratio, and express nuclear Oct-4, cell surface protein SSEA-4, and other pluripotent markers such as Nanog, Sox-2, Rex-1, and Tert as indicated by immunolocalization and quantitative polymerase chain reaction (Q-PCR) studies. Interestingly, a distinct population of slightly larger, round hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) with cytoplasmic Oct-4 were detected in the "buffy" coat, which usually gets banked or used during autologus stem cell therapy. Immunohistochemical studies on the umbilical cord tissue (UCT) sections (n=3) showed the presence of nuclear Oct-4-positive VSELs and many fibroblast-like mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) with cytoplasmic Oct-4. These VSELs with nuclear Oct-4, detected in UCB, UCT, and discarded RBC fraction obtained after BM processing, may persist throughout life, maintain tissue homeostasis, and undergo asymmetric cell division to self-renew as well as produce larger progenitor stem cells, viz. HSCs or MSCs, which follow differentiation trajectories depending on the somatic niche. Hence, it can be concluded that the true stem cells in adult body tissues are the VSELs, whereas the HSCs and MSCs are actually progenitor stem cells that arise by asymmetric cell division of VSELs. The results of the present study may help explain low efficacy reported during adult autologous stem cell trials, wherein unknowingly progenitor stem cells are injected rather than the pluripotent stem cells with maximum regenerative potential.
Being quiescent, VSELs possibly do not accumulate genomic (nuclear or mitochondrial) mutations and thus may be ideal endogenous, pluripotent stem cell candidates for regenerative and reproductive medicine. The presence of VSELs in adult gonads and the fact that they survive oncotherapy may obviate the need to bank gonadal tissue for fertility preservation prior to oncotherapy. VSELs and their ability to undergo spermatogenesis/neo-oogenesis in the presence of a healthy niche will help identify newer strategies toward fertility restoration in cancer survivors, delaying menopause and also enabling aged mothers to have better quality eggs.
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