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Daniel J Mathew, Matthew C Lucy, and Rodney D Geisert


Early pregnancy in mammals requires complex and highly orchestrated cellular and molecular interactions between specialized cells within the endometrium and the conceptus. Proinflammatory cytokines are small signaling proteins released by leukocytes that augment innate and adaptive immune responses. They are also released by the mammalian trophectoderm as the conceptus apposes the uterine surface for implantation. On approximately day 12 of development in pigs, the conceptus undergoes a rapid morphological transformation referred to as elongation while simultaneously releasing estrogens and a novel conceptus form of interleukin-1 beta (IL1β). Following elongation, pig conceptuses express interferon gamma (IFNγ) and, in lesser amounts, interferon delta (IFNδ). Significant IFN signaling takes place within the endometrium between day 14 and 18 of pregnancy as the conceptus intimately associates with the uterine epithelium. Based on studies carried out in pigs and other mammals, the combined spacio-temporal activities of conceptus estrogens, IL1β, and IFN set in motion a series of coordinated events that promote establishment of pregnancy. This is achieved through enhancement of conceptus development, uterine receptivity, maternal–fetal hemotropic exchange, and endometrial leukocyte function. These events require activation of specific signaling pathways within the uterine luminal epithelium, glandular epithelium, and stroma. Here, we review proinflammatory cytokine expression by pig conceptuses and the hypothesized actions of these molecules during establishment of pregnancy.

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C Passaro, D Tutt, D J Mathew, J M Sanchez, J A Browne, G B Boe-Hansen, T Fair, and P Lonergan

The objectives of this study were (i) to determine whether blastocyst-induced responses in endometrial explants were detectable after 6- or 24-h co-culture in vitro; (ii) to test if direct contact is required between embryos and the endometrial surface in order to stimulate endometrial gene expression; (iii) to establish the number of blastocysts required to elicit a detectable endometrial response; (iv) to investigate if upregulation of five interferon-stimulated genes (ISGs) in the endometrium was specific to the blastocyst stage and (v) to test if alterations in endometrial gene expression can be induced by blastocyst-conditioned medium. Exposure of endometrial explants to Day 8 blastocysts in vitro for 6 or 24 h induced the expression of ISGs (MX1, MX2, OAS1, ISG15, RSAD2); expression of IFNAR1, IFNAR2, NFKB1, IL1B, STAT1, LGALS3BP, LGALS9, HPGD, PTGES, ITGB1, AKR1C4, AMD1 and AQP4 was not affected. Culture of explants in the presence of more than five blastocysts was sufficient to induce the effect, with maximum expression of ISGs occurring in the presence of 20 blastocysts. This effect was exclusive to blastocyst stage embryos; oocytes, 2-cell embryos or Day 5 morulae did not alter the relative abundance of any of the transcripts examined. Direct contact between blastocysts and the endometrial surface was not required in order to alter the abundance of these transcripts and blastocyst-conditioned medium alone was sufficient to stimulate a response. Results support the notion that local embryo–maternal interaction may occur as early as Day 8 of pregnancy in cattle.