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Riley E Thompson, Aime K Johnson, Pouya Dini, Margherita Y Turco, Tulio M Prado, Christopher Premanandan, Graham J Burton, Barry A Ball, Brian K Whitlock, and Budhan S Pukazhenthi

The endometrium, the inner uterine lining, is composed of cell layers that come in direct contact with an embryo during early pregnancy and later with the fetal placenta. The endometrium is responsible for signals associated with normal reproductive cyclicity as well as maintenance of pregnancy. In the mare, functionally competent in vitro models of the endometrium have not been successful. Furthermore, the ability to study various reproductive processes in vitro may allow critical evaluation of signaling pathways involved in the reproductive diseases of animals that cannot be handled frequently, such as various wildlife species. Here we report the establishment of organoids, 3D structures, derived from fresh and frozen–thawed equine endometrium (Equus ferus caballus and E. f. przewalskii). Although organoids from domestic mares responded to exogenous hormonal stimuli, organoids from Przewalski’s horse failed to respond to exogenous hormones. The present study represents a ‘first’ for any large animal model or endangered species. These physiologically functional organoids may facilitate improved understanding of normal reproductive mechanisms, uterine pathologies, and signaling mechanisms between the conceptus and endometrium and may lead to the development of novel bioassays for drug discovery.

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Hossam El-Sheikh Ali, Kirsten E Scoggin, Rebecca Ruby, Alan Loynachan, Yatta Boakari, Claudia Fernandes, Pouya Dini, Carleigh Elizabeth Fedorka, Shavahn C Loux, Alejandro Esteller-Vico, and Barry A Ball

Cervical remodeling is a critical component in both term and preterm labor in eutherian mammals. However, the molecular mechanisms underlying cervical remodeling remain poorly understood in the mare. The current study compared the transcriptome of the equine cervix (cervical mucosa (CM) and stroma (CS)) during placentitis (placentitis group, n  = 5) and normal prepartum mares (prepartum group, n  = 3) to normal pregnant mares (control group, n  = 4). Transcriptome analysis identified differentially expressed genes (DEGs) during placentitis (5310 in CM and 907 in CS) and during the normal prepartum period (189 in CM and 78 in CS). Our study revealed that cervical remodeling during placentitis was dominated by inflammatory signaling as reflected by the overrepresented toll-like receptor signaling, interleukin signaling, T cell activation, and B cell activation pathways. These pathways were accompanied by upregulation of several proteases, including matrix metalloproteinases (MMP1, MMP2, and MMP9), cathepsins (CTSB, CTSC, and CTSD) and a disintegrin and metalloproteinase with thrombospondin type 1 motifs (ADAMTS1, ADAMTS4, and ADAMTS5), which are crucial for degradation of cervical collagens during remodeling. Cervical remodeling during placentitis was also associated with upregulation of water channel-related transcripts (AQP9 and RLN), angiogenesis-related transcripts (NOS3, ENG1, THBS1, and RAC2), and aggrecan (ACAN), a hydrophilic glucosaminoglycan, with subsequent cervical hydration. The normal prepartum cervix was associated with upregulation of ADAMTS1, ADAMTS4, NOS3 and THBS1, which might reflect an early stage of cervical remodeling taking place in preparation for labor. In conclusion, our findings revealed the possible key regulators and mechanisms underlying equine cervical remodeling during placentitis and the normal prepartum period.