Developmental Biology

Protocols in Current Issue
Protocols in Past Issues
0 Q&A 263 Views Jan 5, 2023

Utilizingresources available from the mother's body to guarantee healthy offspring growth is the fundamental reproductive strategy. Recently, we showed that a class of the largest extracellular vesicles known as exophers, which are responsible for the removal of neurotoxic components from neurons (Melentijevic et al., 2017) and damaged mitochondria from cardiomyocytes (Nicolás-Ávila et al., 2020), are released by the Caenorhabditis elegans hermaphrodite body wall muscles (BWM), to support embryonic growth (Turek et al., 2021). Employing worms expressing fluorescent reporters in BWM cells, we found that exopher formation (exophergenesis) is sex-specific and fertility-dependent. Moreover, exophergenesis is regulated by the developing embryo in utero, and exophers serve as transporters for muscle-generated yolk proteins, which can be used to nourish the next generation. Given the specific regulation of muscular exophergenesis, and the fact that muscle-generated exophers are much larger than neuronal ones and have different targeting, their identification and quantification required a modified approach from that designed for neuronal-derived exophers (Arnold et al., 2020). Here, we present a methodology for assessing and quantifying muscle-derived exophers that can be easily extended to determine their function and regulation in various biological contexts.

Graphical abstract

0 Q&A 645 Views Oct 20, 2022

Infertility has become a major public health problem, with a male factor involved in about half the cases. Mice are the most widely used animal model in reproductive biology research laboratories, but changes in sperm parameters in mice can be subtle and, in the absence of official guidelines, it is important that analyses are carried out in a strict and reproductive manner. This protocol successively details the different steps required to obtain spermatozoa under good conditions, the measurement of sperm motility using a Computer Assisted Sperm Analysis System (CASA) device, the calculation of sperm concentration in the epididymides using a sperm counting cell, and the examination of sperm morphology. The combination of these assays provides an overview of the basic sperm parameters in mice. This is both a diagnostic and a decision-making tool for researchers to orient their scientific strategy according to the observed abnormalities.

0 Q&A 1329 Views Jun 5, 2022

This protocol describes a method to assess relative changes in the level of global protein synthesis in the preimplantation embryo using the Click-iT® Plus OPP Protein Synthesis Assays. In this assay, O-propargyl-puromycin (OPP), an analog of puromycin, is efficiently incorporated into the nascent polypeptide of newly translated proteins in embryonic cells. OPP is fluorescently labeled with a photostable Alexa FluorTM dye and detected with fluorescence microscopy. The intensity of the fluorescence is quantitatively analyzed. This is a fast, sensitive, and non-radioactive method for the detection of protein synthesis in early embryo development. It provides a tool for analyzing the temporal regulation of protein synthesis, as well as the effects of changes in the embryonic microenvironment, and pharmacological and genetic modulations of embryo development.

Graphical abstract:

Figure 1. Brief overview of the procedures of the Click-iT® Plus OPP Alexa Fluor® protein synthesis assay in embryonic cells.

(A) Set up OPP treatments: (1) Set up microdrops containing 50 µL of OPP working solution and label different treatments on the back of culture dishes (e.g., T0, T1, T2, and T3); (2) The drops are overlain with 2–3 mm heavy paraffin oil and then equilibrated in incubator for 2 h; (3) Collect the embryos from female reproductive tracts or following in vitro culture in desired treatments; (4) Culture embryos in the equilibrated OPP working solution for 2–6 h. (B) Example of OPP detection procedures working with 60-well plates labeled as T0, T1, T2, T3, T4, and T5 for different treatments: (1) The first 60-well plate is used for the procedures of washing, fixation, permeabilization, and Click-iT® OPP detection. (2) The second 60-well plate is for DNA staining and washing. (C) Slide preparation: (1) Label the required number of slides and set up vaseline coverslip supports; (2) Add mounting medium; (3) Transfer embryos into mounting medium; (4) Set coverslip; (5) Seal the coverslip with nail polish.

0 Q&A 1403 Views Jun 5, 2022

Superovulation is a method used to reduce the number of mice used per experiment by increasing the egg number. Conventionally, superovulation for obtaining mouse eggs involves the use of equine chorionic gonadotropin (eCG) for stimulation and human CG for induction. Female mice of the C57BL/6 inbred strain spontaneously ovulate approximately 10 eggs. The average number of eggs ovulated using the conventional superovulation method is approximately twice as high as that obtained by spontaneous ovulation. Here, we describe the conventional and non-conventional methods of intraperitoneal injection of superovulation reagents in mice and subsequent egg collection. The non-conventional superovulation method combining anti-inhibin serum (AIS) plus eCG for stimulation is more efficient than conventional superovulation. Appropriate intervals from each injection to sampling induce large numbers of high-quality eggs. Immediately after ovulation, eggs are surrounded by cumulus cells, forming an egg-cumulus complex. These cumulus cells are then removed from the egg-cumulus complex by treatment with hyaluronidase to obtain the exact number of eggs. This protocol is suitable for further manipulations such as intracytoplasmic sperm injection and cryopreservation of eggs, as well as for the analyses of responsivity to superovulation reagents in genetically modified mice obtained by genome editing.

0 Q&A 1603 Views Nov 20, 2021

In males, Leydig cells are the primary source of testosterone, which is necessary for testis development, masculinization, and spermatogenesis. Leydig cells are a valuable cellular model for basic research; thus, it is important to develop an improved method for isolation and purification of Leydig cells from testes. The available methods for Leydig cell isolation have some drawbacks, including the need for sophisticated instruments, high cost, tediousness, and time consumption. Here, we describe an improved protocol for isolation of primary Leydig cells from testicular tissue by digestion with collagenase IV.

0 Q&A 1661 Views Nov 20, 2021

Gamete fusion, which is the final event of fertilization, is a crucial physiological event in the creation of a new fetus. In mammals, sperm IZUMO1 and oocyte IZUMO1R (JUNO) recognition play a role in triggering this process. Gamete fusion occurs through a complex but steady and unfailing intermolecular reaction because fertilization must ensure species specificity, in which fusion takes place between gametes of the same species only. Although many factors involved in this process have recently been identified, their specific contributions remain largely unknown. The current article describes detailed methods for assessment of gamete fusion in mice, visualized by fluorescent dye transfer, from unfertilized oocyte to spermatozoa. These methods are applicable not only for fixed cells but also live imaging of gametes.

0 Q&A 1918 Views Oct 20, 2021

Mammalian sperm cells are not capable of fertilizing an egg immediately after ejaculation; instead, they must gradually acquire the capacity to fertilize while they travel inside the female reproductive tract. Sperm cells are transported by the muscular activity of the myometrium to the utero-tubal junction (UTJ) before entering the oviduct where they undergo this physiological process, termed capacitation. Since the successful emulation of mammalian sperm capacitation in vitro, which led to the development of in vitro fertilization techniques, sperm capacitation and gamete interaction studies have been mostly carried out under in vitro conditions. Sperm cells are typically incubated in vitro for up to several hours at a concentration of more than 1 million cells per milliliter in the capacitation media inside a 37°C incubator with 5% CO2, mimicking the tubal fluid composed of serum albumin, bicarbonate, and Ca2+. The resultant sperm are functionally and molecularly heterogeneous with respect to acrosome reaction, motility, and phosphorylation. By contrast, in vivo sperm capacitation occurs in a time- and space-dependent manner, with limits on the number of capacitating sperm in the oviduct. The small number of sperm at the fertilization site in vivo are highly homogeneous and uniformly capable of fertilization. This discrepancy makes the degree of correlation between the changes observed from in vitro capacitation as a population average and the fertilizing capacity of sperm less clear. To overcome this issue, we used CLARITY tissue clearing to visualize sperm directly inside the female tract in situ and isolated sperm capacitated in vivo from the oviducts of the female mice after timed mating (Ded et al., 2020). Here, we present a step-by-step protocol to collect in vivo capacitated sperm by detailing a microdissection technique and subsequent preparation steps for fluorescent imaging. The advantage of the microdissection technique over in vitro capacitation is the ability to collect physiologically segregated, homogeneous sperm populations at different stages of capacitation. Compared to CLARITY, this technique is more straightforward and compatible with a broader spectrum of antibodies for downstream imaging studies, as it allows the researcher to avoid a potentially high background from non-sperm cells in the tissue. The disadvantage of this technique is the potential contamination of the isolated sperm from different regions of the oviduct and disruption of the fine molecular structures (e.g., CatSper nanodomains) during sperm isolation, especially when the preparation is not performed swiftly. Hence, we suggest that the combination of both in situ and ex vivo isolated sperm imaging is the best way how to address the molecular features of in vivo capacitated sperm.

0 Q&A 1643 Views Oct 5, 2021

The placenta is a multifaceted organ, fulfilling critical functions for the fetus and the mother. Therefore, it is a critical regulator of the pregnancy, and its dysfunction leads to diseases, including fetal growth restriction and preeclampsia. Studying the placenta is a difficult task since its existence is transient, and its structure is specific to our species. In vitro differentiation of primary cytotrophoblast isolated from term human placenta has been widely used in the placental research field as it represents a reliable model to study cellular differentiation and function. Direct alternatives include trophoblastic cell lines, explants, and organoids, but this protocol, based on the separation of the cells on a Percoll gradient, presents the advantage of being relatively cheap and easy to perform in every research laboratory. Furthermore, the 2D culture is a flexible method that can be adapted to various experimental conditions (transfection, drug exposure, metabolic study, observations, etc.), allowing mechanistic explorations of cellular processes.

0 Q&A 3052 Views Aug 5, 2021

Females are endowed at birth with a fixed reserve of oocytes, which declines both in quantity and quality with advancing age. Understanding the molecular mechanisms regulating oocyte quality is crucial for improving the chances of pregnancy success in fertility clinics. In vitro culture systems enable researchers to analyse important molecular and genetic regulators of oocyte maturation and fertilisation. Here, we describe in detail a highly reproducible technique for the isolation and culture of fully grown mouse oocytes. We include the considerations and precautionary measures required for minimising the detrimental effects of in vitro culture conditions. This technique forms the starting point for a wide range of experimental approaches such as post-transcriptional gene silencing, immunocytochemistry, Western blotting, high-resolution 4D time-lapse imaging, and in vitro fertilization, which are instrumental in dissecting the molecular determinants of oocyte quality. Hence, this protocol serves as a useful, practical guide for any oocyte researcher beginning experiments aimed at investigating important oocyte molecular factors.

Graphic abstract:

A step-by-step protocol for the isolation and in vitro culture of oocytes from mice.

0 Q&A 2714 Views Jun 5, 2021

Infertility is a widespread and often unexplained issue. Studying reproduction using C. elegans males offers insight into the influence of individual factors on male fertility in humans. We have created a collection of protocols to assess several aspects of C. elegans sperm quality, including number, size, rate of activation, and mitochondrial morphology. Studying sperm biology in a model system such as C. elegans allows access to the wealth of resources and techniques that have been optimized for that organism while providing valuable biological information that may be applicable to other systems.

Graphic abstract:

Flowchart depicting the preparation of C. elegans males and subsequent sperm quality assays

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