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H El-Sheikh Ali, E L Legacki, K E Scoggin, S C Loux, P Dini, A Esteller-Vico, A J Conley, S D Stanley and B A Ball

Equine placentitis is associated with alterations in maternal peripheral steroid concentrations, which could negatively affect pregnancy outcome. This study aimed to elucidate the molecular mechanisms related to steroidogenesis and steroid-receptor signaling in the equine placenta during acute placentitis. Chorioallantois (CA) and endometrial (EN) samples were collected from mares with experimentally induced placentitis (n = 4) and un-inoculated gestationally age-matched mares (control group; n = 4). The mRNA expression of genes coding for steroidogenic enzymes (3βHSD, CYP11A1, CYP17A1, CYP19A1, SRD5A1, and AKR1C23) was evaluated using qRT-PCR. The concentration of these enzyme-dependent steroids (P5, P4, 5αDHP, 3αDHP, 20αDHP, 3β-20αDHP, 17OH-P, DHEA, A4, and estrone) was assessed using liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry in both maternal circulation and placental tissue. Both SRD5A1 and AKR1C23, which encode for the key progesterone metabolizing enzymes, were downregulated (P < 0.05) in CA from the placentitis group compared to controls, and this downregulation was associated with a decline in tissue concentrations of 5αDHP (P < 0.05), 3αDHP (P < 0.05), and 3β-20αDHP (P = 0.052). In the EN, AKR1C23 was also downregulated in the placentitis group compared to controls, and this downregulation was associated with a decline in EN concentrations of 3αDHP (P < 0.01) and 20αDHP (P < 0.05). Moreover, CA expression of CYP19A1 tended to be lower in the placentitis group, and this reduction was associated with lower (P = 0.057) concentrations of estrone in CA. Moreover, ESR1 (steroid receptors) gene expression was downregulated (P = 0.057) in CA from placentitis mares. In conclusion, acute equine placentitis is associated with a local withdrawal of progestins in the placenta and tended to be accompanied with estrogen withdrawals in CA.