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Katrin Mitko, Susanne E Ulbrich, Hendrik Wenigerkind, Fred Sinowatz, Helmut Blum, Eckhard Wolf, and Stefan Bauersachs

During the oestrous cycle, the bovine endometrium exhibits characteristic morphological and functional changes, which are mainly induced by progesterone (P4), oestrogens and oxytocin. We studied the response of the endometrium to this changing hormonal environment at the transcriptome level using a custom-made cDNA microarray. Endometrium samples were recovered from Simmental heifers on days 0 (oestrus), 3.5 (metoestrus), 12 (dioestrus) and 18. The latter group was divided into animals with high (late dioestrus) and low P4 levels (preoestrus). Significance analysis of microarrays revealed 269 genes exhibiting significant changes in their transcript levels during the oestrous cycle in distinct temporal patterns. Two major types of expression profiles were observed, which showed the highest mRNA levels during the oestrus phase or the highest levels during the luteal phase respectively. A minor group of genes exhibited the highest mRNA levels on day 3.5. Gene ontology (GO) analyses revealed GO categories related to extracellular matrix remodelling, transport, and cell growth and morphogenesis enriched at oestrus, whereas immune response and particular metabolic pathways were overrepresented at dioestrus. Generation of gene interaction networks uncovered the genes possibly involved in endometrial remodelling (e.g. collagen genes, TNC, SPARC, MMP2, MEP1B, TIMP1, TIMP2, HTRA1), regulation of angiogenesis (e.g. ANGPTL2, TEK, NPY, AGT, EPAS1, KLF5 ), regulation of invasive growth (e.g. PCSK5, tight junction proteins, GRP, LGALS1, ANXA2, NOV, PLAT, MET, TDGF1, CST6, ITGB4), cell adhesion (e.g. MUC16, LGALS3BP) and embryo feeding (e.g. SLC1A1, SLC11A2, SLC16A1, SEPP1, ENPP1). Localisation of mRNA expression in the endometrium was analysed for CLDN4, CLDN10, TJP1, PCSK5, MAGED1, and LGALS1.

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Dominik Streyl, Rebecca Kenngott, Nadja Herbach, Rüdiger Wanke, Helmut Blum, Fred Sinowatz, Eckhard Wolf, Holm Zerbe, and Stefan Bauersachs

The mechanisms underlying detachment of foetal membranes after birth in cows are still unclear. To address this problem in a systematic manner, we performed the first holistic transcriptome study of bovine placentomes antepartum (AP; n=4 cows) and intrapartum (IP; n=4 cows) using Affymetrix GeneChip Bovine Genome Arrays. Three placentomes were extracted from each cow, and tissue samples from the contact zones of the placentomes (foeto-maternal units) were recovered by systematic random sampling and processed for RNA extraction and for stereological quantification of cellular composition. Statistical analysis of microarray data (false discovery rate 1%) revealed 759 mRNAs with at least twofold higher levels in the samples of the AP group, whereas 514 mRNAs showed higher levels in the IP group. The differentially expressed genes were classified according to biological processes and molecular functions using the Functional Annotation Clustering tool of the DAVID Bioinformatics Resources. Genes with higher mRNA levels in the AP group were nearly completely related to mitotic cell cycle and tissue differentiation. During parturition, a complete shift occurred because the genes with higher mRNA levels in IP were nearly all related to three different physiological processes/complexes: i) apoptosis, ii) degradation of extra cellular matrix and iii) innate immune response, which play a fundamental role in placental detachment. These results are an excellent basis for future studies investigating the molecular basis of retained foetal membranes.

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Regine Rottmayer, Susanne E Ulbrich, Sabine Kölle, Katja Prelle, Christine Neumueller, Fred Sinowatz, Heinrich H D Meyer, Eckhard Wolf, and Stefan Hiendleder

We established a short-term (24 h) culture system for bovine oviduct epithelial cells (BOECs), obtained on day 3.5 of the estrous cycle and evaluated the cells with respect to morphological criteria, marker gene expression, and hormone responsiveness. BOEC sheets were isolated mechanically from the ampulla with similar yields from oviducts ipsi- and contralateral to the ovulation site (57.9 ± 4.6 and 56.4 ± 8.0 × 106 cells). BOECs showed > 95% purity and cells cultured for 24 h maintained morphological characteristics present in vivo, as determined by light microscopy, scanning electron microscopy, and transmission electron microscopy. Both secretory cells with numerous secretory granules and ciliated cells with long, well-developed, and vigorously beating kinocilia were visible. Quantitative real-time PCR failed to detect significant differences in transcript levels between ipsi-and contralateral BOECs for the majority of marker genes (estrogen receptors α and β (ESR1 and ESR2), 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl-coenzyme A reductase (HMGCR), oviductal glycoprotein 1 (OVGP1), progesterone receptor (PGR), and tumor rejection antigen 1 (TRA1)) throughout the 24 h culture period. However, the combined data of all time points for glutathione peroxidase 4 (GPX4), a gene previously shown to be expressed at higher levels in the ipsilateral oviduct in vivo, also indicated significantly different mRNA levels in vitro. The expression of marker genes remained stable after 6 h cell culture, indicating only a short adaptation period. Western blot analysis confirmed ESR1 and PGR protein expression throughout the culture period. In agreement with cyclic differences in vivo, estradiol-17β stimulation increased PGR transcript abundance in BOECs. Our novel culture system provides functional BOECs in sufficient quantities for holistic transcriptome and proteome studies, e.g. for deciphering early embryo–maternal communication.

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Stefan Bauersachs, Susanne E Ulbrich, Karin Gross, Susanne E M Schmidt, Heinrich H D Meyer, Hendrik Wenigerkind, Margarete Vermehren, Fred Sinowatz, Helmut Blum, and Eckhard Wolf

The endometrium plays a central role among the reproductive tissues in the context of early embryo–maternal communication and pregnancy. This study investigated transcriptome profiles of endometrium samples from day 18 pregnant vs non-pregnant heifers to get insight into the molecular mechanisms involved in conditioning the endometrium for embryo attachment and implantation. Using a combination of subtracted cDNA libraries and cDNA array hybridisation, 109 mRNAs with at least twofold higher abundance in endometrium of pregnant animals and 70 mRNAs with higher levels in the control group were identified. Among the mRNAs with higher abundance in pregnant animals, at least 41 are already described as induced by interferons. In addition, transcript levels of many new candidate genes involved in the regulation of transcription, cell adhesion, modulation of the maternal immune system and endometrial remodelling were found to be increased. The different expression level was confirmed with real-time PCR for nine genes. Localisation of mRNA expression in the endometrium was shown by in situ hybridisation for AGRN, LGALS3BP, LGALS9, USP18, PARP12 and BST2. A comparison with similar studies in humans, mice, and revealed species-specific and common molecular markers of uterine receptivity.