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Sachiko Yamakoshi, Rulan Bai, Takashi Chaen, Atsushi Ideta, Yoshito Aoyagi, Toshihiro Sakurai, Toshihiro Konno and Kazuhiko Imakawa

In the course of experiments to identify and characterize the factors that function in bovine conceptuses during peri-attachment periods, various transcripts related to the epithelial–mesenchymal transition (EMT) were found. In this study, RNA was extracted from different sets of days 17, 20, and 22 (day 0=day of estrous) bovine conceptuses and subjected to real-time PCR analysis as well as Western blotting, from which abundances of N-cadherin (CDH2), vimentin, matrix metalloproteinase 2 (gelatinase A, 72 kDa gelatinase, 72 kDa type IV collagenase) (MMP2), and matrix metallopeptidase 9 (gelatinase B, 92 kDa gelatinase, 92 kDa type IV collagenase) (MMP9) mRNAs were determined on day 22, concurrent with (CDH1) mRNA and protein downregulation. Transcription factors in EMT processes were then analyzed and changes in snail homolog 2 (Drosophila) (SNAI), zinc finger E-box binding homeobox 1 (ZEB1), zinc finger E-box binding homeobox 2 (ZEB2), twist homolog 1 (Drosophila) (TWIST1), twist homolog 2 (Drosophila) (TWIST2), and Kruppel-like factor 8 (KLF8) transcripts were found in day 22 conceptuses, while confirming SNAI2 expression by Western blotting. Immunohistochemical analysis revealed that the day 22 trophectoderm expressed the mesenchymal markers N-cadherin and vimentin as well as the epithelial marker cytokeratin. In attempts to identify the molecular mechanisms by which the trophectoderm expressed EMT-related genes, growth factor receptors associated with EMT were analyzed. Upregulation of the growth factor receptor transcripts, fibroblast growth factor receptor 1 (FGFR1), platelet-derived growth factor receptor, alpha polypeptide (PDGFRA), platelet-derived growth factor receptor, beta polypeptide (PDGFRB), and transforming growth factor, beta receptor II (70/80 kDa) (TGFBR2) mRNAs, was found on day 22. The analysis was extended to determine the integrin (ITG) transcripts and found high levels of integrin, alpha 4 (antigen CD49D, alpha 4 subunit of VLA-4 receptor) (ITGA4), integrin, alpha 8 (ITGA8), integrin, beta 3 (platelet glycoprotein IIIa, antigen CD61) (ITGB3), and integrin, beta 5 (ITGB5) mRNAs on day 22. These observations indicate that after the conceptus–endometrium attachment, EMT-related transcripts as well as the epithelial marker cytokeratin were present in the bovine trophectoderm and suggest that the implantation process for noninvasive trophoblasts requires not only extracellular matrix expression but also partial EMT.

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Keigo Nakamura, Kazuya Kusama, Atsushi Ideta, Kazuhiko Imakawa and Masatoshi Hori

Extracellular vesicles (EVs) present in uterine lumen are involved in conceptus-endometrial interactions during the pre-implantation period. Despite numerous studies conducted on interferon tau (IFNT), a major protein of maternal recognition of pregnancy, the effect of intrauterine EVs on the endometrium during pre-implantation periods has not been well-characterized. To characterize conceptus-derived intrauterine EVs independent of IFNT, transcripts found from RNA-seq analysis in RNAs extracted from primary bovine endometrial epithelial cells (EECs) treated with cyclic day 17 (C17) EVs, pregnant day 17 (P17) EVs or IFNT were analyzed. These analyses identified 82 transcripts uniquely induced by IFNT-independent P17 EVs, of which a large number of transcripts were associated with ‘the TNF signaling pathway’ and ‘Inflammatory response’. Moreover, high expression of CD40L, a member of the TNF superfamily, and its receptor CD40 were found in P17 EVs and in EECs, respectively. Furthermore, the expression of TNF signaling pathway-related genes was up-regulated by the treatment with P17 EVs, but these increases were down-regulated by NF-kB signaling inhibitor. These findings suggest that P17 EVs could induce a pro-inflammatory response in the endometrium, independent of IFNT, to regulate uterine receptivity, facilitating conceptus implantation.

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Rulan Bai, Hanako Bai, Mariko Kuse, Atsushi Ideta, Yoshito Aoyagi, Hiroshi Fujiwara, Kiyoshi Okuda, Kazuhiko Imakawa and Toshihiro Sakurai

Following bidirectional communication, the conceptus and the uterine epithelium must establish a proper cell–cell interaction, resulting in the progression of implantation processes. To clarify the mechanism of conceptus attachment to the uterine endometrium, we studied whether vascular cell adhesion molecule (VCAM1) was expressed in bovine conceptuses or endometrium during the peri-attachment period. Uterine VCAM1 expression was minimal in day 17 (day 0=day of estrus) cyclic and pregnant animals, but increased between days 20 and 22 of pregnancy. In the intercaruncular regions, VCAM1 protein was localized to the luminal and glandular epithelia, whereas in the caruncular regions, VCAM1 protein was detected in the stroma and endothelia of the uterine endometrium. In cultured endometrial epithelial cells (EECs), VCAM1 expression was up-regulated when treated with uterine flushings or growth factor and further increased when EECs were cocultured with bovine trophoblast CT1 cells. VCAM1 expression in CT1 cells was also up-regulated with the use of uterine flushings, and further increased when these cells were cocultured with EECs. Expression of VCAM1 receptor, integrin α 4 (ITGA4) mRNA, increased significantly in day 22 conceptuses. In day 22 pregnant uteri, VCAM1 protein was found in both EECs and conceptuses, but ITGA4 was localized only to trophoblasts. These observations indicate that cell–cell interactions between conceptuses and uterine epithelial cells are required for sufficient VCAM1 and ITGA4 expression in the bovine species and suggest that uterine VCAM1 and conceptus ITGA4 play a role in the establishment of conceptus adhesion to the uterine endometrium.