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David W Erikson, Amy L Way, David A Chapman and Gary J Killian

Osteopontin (OPN) is a secreted extracellular matrix phosphoprotein identified in various tissues and fluids including those of the male and female reproductive tracts. OPN was previously identified as a 55 kDa high fertility marker in Holstein bull seminal plasma, produced by the ampulla and the vesicular gland. The objectives of this study were to characterize OPN on ejaculated and cauda epididymal sperm using immunofluorescence and western blot analysis, and to assess the role of sperm OPN in fertilization. Solubilized sperm membrane proteins from ejaculated and cauda epididymal sperm were separated by 1D SDS-PAGE, transferred to nitrocellulose, and probed with an antibody to bovine milk OPN. A 35 kDa protein was detected by this antibody in both ejaculated and cauda epididymal sperm membranes. Analyses also recognized OPN at 55 and 25 kDa in cauda epididymal fluid and testicular parenchyma homogenates respectively. Immunofluorescent analysis of ejaculated and cauda epididymal sperm showed OPN localization in a well-defined band in the postacrosomal region of the sperm head and also on the midpiece. Results of in vitro fertilization experiments showed that sperm treated with an antibody to OPN fertilized fewer oocytes than sperm treated with control medium while increasing incidence of polyspermy, suggesting a role of sperm-associated OPN in fertilization and a block to polyspermy. These studies demonstrate that OPN exists at multiple molecular weight forms in the bull reproductive tract and its presence on ejaculated sperm may signal its importance in fertilization by interacting with integrins or other proteins on the oocyte plasma membrane.

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Daniel W Bailey, Kathrin A Dunlap, David W Erikson, Atish K Patel, Fuller W Bazer, Robert C Burghardt and Greg A Johnson

Pigs experience significant conceptus loss near mid-gestation, correlating with increasing glandular epithelial (GE) development and secretory activity. Secreted phosphoprotein 1 (SPP1, osteopontin) increases in GE between days 30 and 40 of pregnancy and is expressed in the GE of day 90 pseudopregnant pigs, suggesting that progesterone (P4) from corpora lutea is responsible for induction of SPP1 in GE. In this study, pigs were ovariectomized and treated daily with P4 to assess effects of 40 days of P4 exposure on SPP1, P4 receptor (PGR), uteroferrin (ACP5), and fibroblast growth factor 7 (FGF7) expression in porcine endometria. PGR mRNA decreased in pigs injected with P4 compared with pigs injected with corn oil (CO), and PGRs were downregulated in the luminal epithelium (LE) and GE. ACP5 mRNA increased in pigs injected with P4 compared with pigs injected with CO, and ACP5 was induced in the GE of P4-treated pigs. FGF7 mRNA increased in pigs injected with P4 compared with pigs injected with CO, and FGF7 was induced in the LE and GE of P4-treated pigs. SPP1 mRNA was not different between pigs injected with P4 compared with pigs injected with CO, and SPP1 was not present in the GE of P4-treated pigs. Therefore, long-term P4, in the absence of ovarian and/or conceptus factors, does not induce SPP1 expression in GE. We hypothesize that a servomechanism involving sequential effects of multiple hormones and cytokines, similar to those for sheep and humans, is required for GE differentiation and function, including the synthesis and secretion of SPP1.

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Theodore T Wing, David W Erikson, Robert C Burghardt, Fuller W Bazer, Kayla J Bayless and Greg A Johnson

Angiogenesis is fundamental to the expansion of the placental vasculature during pregnancy. Integrins are associated with vascular formation; and osteopontin is a candidate ligand for integrins to promote angiogenesis. Endothelial progenitor cells (EPCs) are released from bone marrow into the blood and incorporate into newly vascularized tissue where they differentiate into mature endothelium. Results of studies in women suggest that EPCs may play an important role in maintaining placental vascular integrity during pregnancy, although little is known about how EPCs are recruited to these tissues. Our goal was to determine the αv integrin mediated effects of osteopontin on EPC adhesion and incorporation into angiogenic vascular networks. EPCs were isolated from 6 h old piglets. RT-PCR revealed that EPCs initially had a monocyte-like phenotype in culture that became more endothelial-like with cell passage. Immunofluorescence microscopy confirmed that the EPCs express platelet endothelial cell adhesion molecule, vascular endothelial cadherin, and von Willebrand factor. When EPCs were cultured on OPN-coated slides, the αv integrin subunit was observed in focal adhesions at the basal surface of EPCs. Silencing of αv integrin reduced EPC binding to OPN and focal adhesion assembly. In vitro siRNA knockdown in EPCs,demonstrated that OPN stimulates EPC incorporation into human umbilical vein endothelial cell (HUVEC) networks via αv-containing integrins. Finally, in situ hybridization and immunohistochemistry localized osteopontin near placental blood vessels. In summary, OPN binds the αv integrin subunit on EPCs to support EPC adhesion and increase EPC incorporation into angiogenic vascular networks.

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Daniel W Bailey, Kathrin A Dunlap, James W Frank, David W Erikson, Bryan G White, Fuller W Bazer, Robert C Burghardt and Greg A Johnson

In pigs, endometrial functions are regulated primarily by progesterone and placental factors including estrogen. Progesterone levels are high throughout pregnancy to stimulate and maintain secretion of histotroph from uterine epithelia necessary for growth, implantation, placentation, and development of the conceptus (embryo and its extra-embryonic membranes). This study determined effects of long-term progesterone on development and histoarchitecture of endometrial luminal epithelium (LE), glandular epithelium (GE), and vasculature in pigs. Pigs were ovariectomized during diestrus (day 12), and then received daily injections of either corn oil or progesterone for 28 days. Prolonged progesterone treatment resulted in increased weight and length of the uterine horns, and thickness of the endometrium and myometrium. Hyperplasia and hypertrophy of GE were not evident, but LE cell height increased, suggesting elevated secretory activity. Although GE development was deficient, progesterone supported increased endometrial angiogenesis comparable to that of pregnancy. Progesterone also supported alterations to the apical and basolateral domains of LE and GE. Dolichos biflorus agglutinin lectin binding and αv integrin were downregulated at the apical surfaces of LE and GE. Claudin-4, α2β1 integrin, and vimentin were increased at basolateral surfaces, whereas occludins-1 and -2, claudin-3, and E-cadherin were unaffected by progesterone treatment indicating structurally competent trans-epithelial adhesion and tight junctional complexes. Collectively, the results suggest that progesterone affects LE, GE, and vascular development and histoarchitecture, but in the absence of ovarian or placental factors, it does not support development of GE comparable to pregnancy. Furthermore, LE and vascular development are highly responsive to the effects of progesterone.