The microenvironment of the ovarian follicle is key to the developmental success of the oocyte. Minor changes within the follicular microenvironment can significantly disrupt oocyte development, compromising the formation of competent embryos and reducing fertility. Previously described as a sterile environment, the ovarian follicle of women has been shown to contain colonizing bacterial strains, whereas in domestic species, pathogen-associated molecules are concentrated in the follicular fluid of animals with uterine infection. The aim of this study is to determine whether human granulosa–luteal cells mount an innate immune response to pathogen-associated molecules, potentially disrupting the microenvironment of the ovarian follicle. Human granulosa–luteal cells were collected from patients undergoing assisted reproduction. Cells were cultured in the presence of pathogen-associated molecules (LPS, FSL-1 and Pam3CSK4) for 24h. Supernatants and total RNA were collected for assessment by PCR and ELISA. Granulosa–luteal cells were shown to express the molecular machinery required to respond to a range of pathogen-associated molecules. Expression of TLR4 varied up to 15-fold between individual patients. Granulosa–luteal cells increased the expression of the inflammatory mediators IL1B, IL6 and CXCL8 in the presence of the TLR4 agonist E. coli LPS. Similarly, the TLR2/6 ligand, FSL-1, increased the expression of IL6 and CXCL8. Although no detectable changes in CYP19A1 or STAR expression were observed in granulosa–luteal cells following challenge, a significant reduction in progesterone secretion was measured after treatment with FSL-1. These findings demonstrate the ability of human granulosa–luteal cells to respond to pathogen-associated molecules and generate an innate immune response.
Laila A Ibrahim, Joseph M Kramer, R Stan Williams and John J Bromfield
Jason A Rizo, Laila A Ibrahim, Paula C C Molinari, Bo R Harstine, Rachel L Piersanti and John J Bromfield
Semen induces post-coital inflammation of the endometrium in several species. Post-coital inflammation is proposed to alter the endometrial environment of early pregnancy, mediate embryonic development and modulate the maternal immune response to pregnancy. In cattle, it is common for pregnancies to occur in the absence of whole semen due to the high utilization of artificial insemination. Here, we have utilized a cell culture system to characterize semen-induced expression of inflammatory mediators in bovine endometrial cells and test the efficacy of transforming growth factor beta as the active agent in mediating any such change. We hypothesize that seminal plasma-derived transforming growth factor beta increases the expression of inflammatory mediators in bovine endometrial cells. Initially, we describe a heat-labile cytotoxic effect of seminal plasma on BEND cells, and a moderate increase in IL1B and IL6 expression. In addition, we show that transforming growth factor beta is present in bovine semen and can increase the expression of endometrial IL6, whereas blocking transforming growth factor beta in semen ameliorates this effect. However, intra-uterine infusion of seminal plasma, sperm or transforming growth factor beta did not alter the endometrial expression of inflammatory mediators. We conclude that bovine semen can modulate endometrial gene expression in vitro, which is partially due to the presence of transforming growth factor beta. It is likely that additional, unidentified, bioactive molecules in semen can alter the endometrial environment. Characterizing bioactive molecules in bovine semen may lead to the development of additives to improve artificial insemination in domestic species.