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Wenbo Yan, Peter L Ryan, Frank F Bartol, and Carol A Bagnell

While uterotrophic effects of relaxin are well documented, the mechanism through which relaxin promotes uterine growth is incompletely understood. Studies in rats suggest that relaxin-stimulated uterine edema depends on estrogen receptor (ER) activation. Here, neonatal pigs were used to investigate the interaction between relaxin and ER signaling pathways. Gilts were treated either at birth (postnatal day (PND) 0) (study 1) before the onset of endometrial ERα expression, or on PND 12 (study 2) after the onset of ERα expression. In study 1, gilts were treated with estradiol-17β or porcine relaxin for two days and uteri were collected on PND 2. In study 2, PND 12 gilts were treated with a single injection of the ER antagonist ICI 182,780 (ICI) or vehicle. Two hours later, gilts were given either estradiol-17β or porcine relaxin for two days. When administered for two days from birth (study 1), neither estradiol-17β nor relaxin affected uterine weight or protein content. However, uterine luminal epithelial height was greater in relaxin- than in vehicle-treated gilts. In contrast, in study 2, both estradiol and relaxin increased uterine weight, protein content and uterine luminal epithelial height on PND 14. These effects were inhibited by pre-treatment with ICI in both estradiol- and relaxin-treated gilts. The results indicate that uterotrophic effects of relaxin in the neonatal pig are related to age and to both the relative presence and state of activation of the ER system in developing uterine tissues between birth and PND 14.

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Ashley F George, Kathleen M Rahman, Dori J Miller, Anne A Wiley, Meredith E Camp, Frank F Bartol, and Carol A Bagnell

Nursing ensures lactocrine delivery of maternally derived, milk-borne bioactive factors to offspring, which affects postnatal development of female reproductive tract tissues. Disruption of lactocrine communication for two days from birth (postnatal day (PND) 0) by feeding milk replacer in lieu of nursing or consumption of colostrum alters porcine uterine gene expression globally by PND 2 and inhibits uterine gland genesis by PND 14. Here, objectives were to determine effects of: (1) nursing or milk replacer feeding from birth; (2) a single dose of colostrum or milk replacer and method of feeding and (3) a single feeding of colostrum or milk replacer, with or without oral supplementation of IGF1, administered at birth on aspects of porcine uterine development at 12-h postnatally. Results indicate nursing for 12 h from birth supports rapid establishment of a uterine developmental program, illustrated by patterns of endometrial cell proliferation, expression of genes associated with uterine wall development and entry into mitosis and establishment of a uterine MMP9/TIMP1 system. A single feeding of colostrum at birth increased endometrial cell proliferation at 12 h, regardless of method of feeding. Oral supplementation of IGF1 was sufficient to support endometrial cell proliferation at 12 h in replacer-fed gilts, and supplementation of colostrum with IGF1 further increased endometrial cell proliferation. Results indicate that lactocrine regulation of postnatal uterine development is initiated with the first ingestion of colostrum. Further, results suggest IGF1 may be lactocrine-active and support a 12-h bioassay, which can be used to identify uterotrophic lactocrine activity.

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Joseph C Chen, Anne A Wiley, Teh-Yuan Ho, Amy-Lynn Frankshun, Kristin M Hord, Frank F Bartol, and Carol A Bagnell

Disruption of estrogen-sensitive, estrogen receptor (ER)-dependent events during porcine uterine development between birth (postnatal day=PND 0) and PND 14 affects patterns of uterine morphoregulatory gene expression in the neonate with lasting consequences for reproductive success. Uterine capacity for conceptus support is reduced in pregnant adult gilts exposed to estradiol valerate (EV) for 14 days from birth. Objectives here were to determine effects of EV exposure from birth through PND 13 on neonatal uterine and adult endometrial markers of growth, patterning, and remodeling. Targets included the relaxin receptor (RXFP1), estrogen receptor-α (ESR1) and vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGFA), morphoregulatory markers HOXA10 and WNT7A, and the matrix metalloproteinases (MMP)2 and MMP9. Gilts were treated daily with EV (50 μg/kg body weight per day, i.m.) or corn oil vehicle from birth through PND 13. Uteri were obtained from neonates on PND 14 and from adults on pregnancy day 12 (PxD 12). In neonates, EV exposure from birth increased uterine RXFP1 gene expression, and both ESR1 and VEGFA proteins. At PxD 12, endometrial RXFP1 mRNA remained elevated, while ESR1 protein was reduced. Early EV treatment decreased neonatal uterine WNT7A, but increased HOXA10 expression. WNT7A expression was reduced in EV-treated adults. Transient EV exposure increased MMP9 transcripts at PND 14, whereas both latent and active MMP9 activity was increased due to early EV treatment in adults on PxD 12. Results support the hypothesis that transient, estrogen-induced disruption of porcine uterine development from birth alters early programming events that lead to functional consequences in the adult.

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Meredith E Camp, Anne A Wiley, Monica B Boulos, Kathleen M Rahman, Frank F Bartol, and Carol A Bagnell

Nursing supports neonatal porcine uterine and testicular development, however, lactocrine effects on cervical development are undefined. Studies were conducted to determine the effects of i) age and the imposition of the lactocrine-null state from birth (postnatal day 0 (PND0)) by milk replacer feeding on cervical histology; ii) imposition of the lactocrine-null state for 2 days from birth on cervical cell proliferation, as reflected by proliferating cell nuclear antigen immunostaining; and iii) a single feeding of colostrum or milk replacer, administered at birth, with or without oral IGF1, on cervical cell proliferation and phosphorylated AKT (pAKT) and B-cell lymphoma 2 (BCL2) protein levels at 12 h postnatal. Cervical crypt depth and height of luminal epithelium (LE) increased with age by PND14, when both responses were reduced in replacer-fed gilts. Cell proliferation was reduced in LE at PND2, and in crypt epithelium and stroma by PND14 in replacer-fed gilts. Returning replacer-fed gilts to nursing on PND2 did not rescue the cervical phenotype by PND14. A single feeding of colostrum, but not milk replacer, was sufficient to support cervical cell proliferation at 12 h postnatal. IGF1 supplementation induced cell proliferation in replacer-fed gilts, and increased cervical pAKT and BCL2 levels in colostrum-fed gilts and replacer-fed gilts at 12 h postnatal. Results indicate that age and nursing support porcine cervical development, support is initiated at first ingestion of colostrum, IGF1 may be lactocrine-active, and identification of lactocrine-active factors can be accomplished by 12 h postnatal using this bioassay system.

Free access

Amy-Lynn Frankshun, Teh-Yuan Ho, David C Reimer, Joseph Chen, Salamia Lasano, Bernard G Steinetz, Frank F Bartol, and Carol A Bagnell

A lactocrine mechanism for delivery of maternally derived relaxin (RLX) into the neonatal circulation as a consequence of nursing was proposed for the pig. Immunoreactive RLX was detected in colostrum and in the serum of newborn pigs only if they were allowed to nurse. Milk-borne RLX concentrations are highest during early lactation (9–19 ng/ml), declining to <2 ng/ml by postnatal day 14. Whether milk-borne RLX is bioactive is unknown. Evidence that RLX concentrations in milk are higher than in maternal circulation in several species suggests the mammary gland as a site of local RLX production. It is unknown whether the porcine mammary gland is a source of RLX. Therefore, objectives were to evaluate RLX bioactivity in porcine milk during the first 2 weeks of lactation, identify the form of RLX in porcine milk, and determine whether mammary tissue from early lactation is a source of milk-borne RLX. Milk RLX bioactivity was determined using an in vitro bioassay in which cAMP production by human embryonic kidney (HEK293T) cells transfected with the human RLX receptor (RXFP1) was measured. RLX bioactivity was highest at lactation day (LD) 0, decreasing to undetectable levels by LD 4. Immunoblot analysis of milk proteins revealed an 18 kDa band, indicating proRLX as the primary form of RLX in porcine milk. ProRLX protein and transcripts were detected in porcine mammary tissue on LD 0 and 7. Results support the lactocrine hypothesis by defining the nature and a potential source for bioactive proRLX in porcine colostrum/milk.

Free access

Joseph C Chen, Amy-Lynn Frankshun, Anne A Wiley, Dori J Miller, Kristene A Welch, Teh-Yuan Ho, Frank F Bartol, and Carol A Bagnell

Lactocrine communication of milk-borne bioactive factors (MbFs) from mother to offspring through nursing can affect neonatal development with lasting consequences. Relaxin (RLX), a lactocrine-active peptide found in porcine colostrum, stimulates estrogen receptor-α (ESR1) expression required for uterine development shortly after birth (postnatal day=PND 0). Whether other MbFs or cooperative lactocrine mechanisms affect the neonatal uterine developmental program is unknown. To determine the effects of age, nursing, and exogenous RLX on gene expression associated with uterine development, gilts (n=4–5/group) were assigned to nurse ad libitum or to receive milk replacer, with or without exogenous RLX (20 μg/kg BW i.m./6 h for 48 h), from birth to PND 2 when uteri were collected. Body weight and uterine weight increased (P<0.05) similarly from birth to PND 2 in all gilts. However, colostrum consumption was required for normal uterine ESR1, vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGFA), matrix metalloproteinase 9 (MMP9), and RLX receptor (RXFP1) protein and/or transcript expression on PND 2. Uterine ESR1, VEGFA, and MMP9 protein levels were below (P<0.01) the assay sensitivity in replacer-fed gilts. Supplemental RLX increased (P<0.05) uterine ESR1 protein and mRNA in nursed gilts, as well as VEGFA protein in nursed and VEGFA mRNA in both nursed and replacer-fed gilts. RLX treatment did not affect uterine MMP9 mRNA levels. When compared with replacer-fed gilts on PND 2, uterine RXFP1 mRNA was reduced (P<0.05) in nursed gilts and in RLX-supplemented replacer-fed gilts. These results constitute the first evidence that establishment of the neonatal porcine uterine developmental program requires maternal lactocrine support.

Free access

Wenbo Yan, Joseph Chen, Anne A Wiley, Bethany D Crean-Harris, Frank F Bartol, and Carol A Bagnell

The porcine female reproductive tract undergoes estrogen receptor (ER) α-dependent development after birth (postnatal day=PND 0), the course of which can determine adult uterine function. Uterotrophic effects of relaxin (RLX) in the porcine neonate are age specific and may involve ER activation. Here, objectives were to determine effects of RLX and estrogen administered from birth on uterine and cervical growth and expression of ERα, vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), and the RLX receptor (RXFP1). On PND 0, gilts were treated with the antiestrogen ICI 182 780 (ICI) or vehicle alone and, 2 h later, were given estradiol-17β (E) or porcine RLX for 2 days. Neither RLX nor E affected uterine wet weight or protein content on PND 2. However, RLX, but not E, increased cervical wet weight and protein content when compared with controls. Pretreatment with ICI did not inhibit RLX-stimulated cervical growth. Uterine and cervical ERα increased in response to RLX, but not E. Both RLX and E increased VEGF in the uterus and cervix on PND 2. Pretreatment with ICI increased VEGF in both tissues and increased RLX-induced cervical VEGF. In the uterus E, but not RLX, increased RXFP1 mRNA. In the cervix, E increased RXFP1 gene expression whereas RLX decreased it. Results indicate that the neonatal uterus and cervix are sensitive to E and RLX and that growth responses to RLX in these tissues differ by PND 2. Effects of RLX on uterine and cervical ERα and VEGF expression may be important for neonatal reproductive tract development.