Doctoral defence: Qurat Ul Ain Reshi "Characterization of the maternal reproductive tract and spermatozoa communication during periconception period via extracellular vesicles"

On August 31 at 14.00 Qurat Ul Ain Reshi will defend her doctoral thesis "Characterization of the maternal reproductive tract and spermatozoa communication during periconception period via extracellular vesicles".

Professor Alireza Fazeli, University of Tartu
Professor Andres Salumets, University of Tartu
Professor Ülle Jaakma, Estonian University of Life Sciences

Associate Professor John Parrington, University of Oxford, (United Kingdom)

Infertility in women could arise from multiple factors which are broadly seen as issues in the pre-conception or post-conception processes. The oviduct plays key role in maintaining periconception environment and facilitates the transport and maturation of male gametes, fertilization, early embryonic development. Although these notable events take place in oviduct, the information regarding periconception milieu in oviduct is very limited. Despite significant advances in assisted reproductive technologies (ARTs) since the birth of first in vitro fertilization (IVF) baby in 1978, achieving pregnancy through ART is not guaranteed, and many couples require multiple attempts. Approximately 30% of couples diagnosed with infertility globally have idiopathic infertility.  

Studies have reported modifications in genomic and proteomic profile of the oviduct induced by the presence of spermatozoa. These alterations occurring require precise intercellular communication and a class of messengers called extracellular vesicles (EVs) seem to mediate these interactions. The EVs from oviductal epithelium play important role in supporting spermatozoa motility, and viability. Moreover, follicular fluid (FF), which is a rich source of EVs, has been reported to influence the oviductal transcriptome. Therefore, taken together, these studies imply existence of a two-way dialogue between spermatozoa-oviduct and EVs might be playing a vital role in this interaction. 

In this project, we investigated if spermatozoa can communicate with oviductal epithelial cells remotely and alter the gene expression of the oviduct without direct interaction. In addition, we also aimed to study the changes in cargo and production of EVs derived from the oviduct in response to spermatozoa. Furthermore, we also analysed the effects of FF derived EVs on vital functions of spermatozoa which includes viability, capacitation and acrosome reaction. The lack of understanding regarding these interactions between spermatozoa-oviduct, spermatozoa-FF and role of EVs as possible mediators of intercellular communication can be one of the reasons leading to failure in conception. An exploration of such processes may enhance ART-based infertility treatments, particularly in case of couples diagnosed with idiopathic infertility.

The defense can also be viewed online.