The corpus luteum produces progesterone, which is essential for the maintenance of pregnancy. In the absence of a viable embryo, the corpus luteum must regress rapidly to allow for development of new ovulatory follicles. In many species, luteal regression is initiated by uterine release of PGF(2alpha), which inhibits steroidogenesis and may launch a cascade of events leading to the ultimate demise of the tissue. Immune cells, primarily macrophages and T lymphocytes, are present in the corpus luteum, particularly at the time of luteolysis. The macrophages are important for ingestion of cellular remnants that result from the death of luteal cells. However, it has also been hypothesized that immune cells are involved directly in the destruction of luteal cells, as well as in the loss of steroidogenesis; this hypothesis is reviewed in the first part of this article. An alternative hypothesis is also presented, namely that immune cells serve to abate an inflammatory response generated by dead and dying luteal cells, in effect, preventing a response that would otherwise damage surrounding ovarian tissues. Finally, the changes in immune cells that accompany maternal recognition of pregnancy and rescue of the corpus luteum are discussed briefly. Inhibition of immune cells in the corpus luteum during early pregnancy may be due to embryonic or uterine signals, or to maintenance of high progesterone concentrations within the luteal tissue.
JL Pate and P Landis Keyes
MG Petroff, BK Petroff and JL Pate
Tumour necrosis factor alpha (TNF-alpha) and gamma-interferon (IFN-gamma) are cytotoxic to bovine luteal cells in vitro and may contribute to cell death during luteolysis in vivo. In this study, the mechanism by which luteal cells are killed by TNF-alpha and IFN-gamma was investigated. Luteal cells were cultured for 7 days in the presence or absence of TNF-alpha and IFN-gamma. Inhibitors of arachidonate metabolism or scavengers of free radicals were included in the culture media. In addition, the effect of IFN-beta on the viability of cytokine-treated luteal cells was tested. Lastly, untreated and cytokine-treated cells were subjected to single cell gel electrophoresis for quantification of DNA fragmentation. Neither indomethacin nor nordihydroguaiaretic acid, which are inhibitors of cyclooxygenase and lipoxygenase, respectively, were able to prevent cytokine-induced cell death. Similarly, both the phospholipase A(2) inhibitor arachidonyltrifluoromethyl ketone and the nitric oxide synthase inhibitor N(G)-monomethyl-L-arginine, were largely without effect. In contrast, while vitamin C did not significantly affect viability, superoxide dismutase plus catalase increased viability of cytokine-treated cells (P < 0.05), and IFN-beta prevented cell death (P < 0.05). Finally, while control cells remained free of DNA damage, TNF-alpha plus IFN-gamma induced significant amounts of DNA damage by 48 h after initiation of treatment (P < 0.05). In conclusion, reactive oxygen species, but not arachidonate metabolism or nitric oxide, contribute to cytokine-induced luteal cell death in vitro, and the process of cell death may be via apoptosis. Furthermore, IFN-beta may confer protective effects against cytokine-induced cell death in bovine luteal cells.