The integrity of the fetal–maternal interface is critical for proper fetal nourishment during pregnancy. Integrins are important adhesion molecules present at the interface during implantation; however, in vivo evidence for integrin activation and focal adhesion formation at the maternal–conceptus interface is limited. We hypothesized that focal adhesion assembly in uterine luminal epithelium (LE) and conceptus trophectoderm (Tr) results from integrin binding of extracellular matrix (ECM) at this interface to provide increased tensile forces and signaling to coordinate utero-placental development. An ovine model of unilateral pregnancy was used to evaluate mechanotransduction events leading to focal adhesion assembly at the maternal–conceptus interface and within the uterine wall. Animals were hysterectomized on days 40, 80, or 120 of pregnancy, and uteri immunostained for integrins (ITGAV, ITGA4, ITGA5, ITGB1, ITGB3, and ITGB5), ECM proteins (SPP1, LGALS15, fibronectin (FN), and vitronectin (VTN)), cytoskeletal molecules (ACTN and TLN1), and a signal generator (PTK2). Focal adhesion assembly in myometrium and stroma was also studied to provide a frame of reference for mechanical stretch of the uterine wall. Large focal adhesions containing aggregates of ITGAV, ITGA4, ITGA5, ITGB1, ITGB5, ACTN, and PTK2 were detected in interplacentomal uterine LE and Tr of gravid but not non-gravid uterine horns and increased during pregnancy. SPP1 and LGALS15, but not FN or VTN, were present along LE and Tr interfaces in both uterine horns. These data support the idea that focal adhesion assembly at the maternal–conceptus interface reflects adaptation to increasing forces caused by the growing fetus. Cooperative binding of multiple integrins to SPP1 deposited at the maternal–conceptus interface forms an adhesive mosaic to maintain a tight connection between uterine and placental surfaces along regions of epitheliochorial placentation in sheep.
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Robert C Burghardt, James R Burghardt, James D Taylor II, Adele T Reeder, Bar T Nguen, Thomas E Spencer, Kayla J Bayless, and Greg A Johnson
C Passaro, D Tutt, S Bagés-Arnal, C Maicas, R Laguna-Barraza, A Gutierrez-Adán, J A Browne, D Rath, S K Behura, T E Spencer, T Fair, and P Lonergan
The aims of this study were (i) to investigate changes in the global transcriptome of bovine endometrial explants induced by exposure to blastocysts, (ii) to investigate if male and female blastocysts elicit a differential response in the endometrial transcriptome in vitro and (iii) to determine whether bovine endometrium responds to the presence of murine embryos. In Experiment 1, endometrial explants from the same uterus were cultured for 6 h with or without 20 in vitro-produced bovine blastocysts. In Experiment 2, endometrial explants were cultured with male or female bovine blastocysts produced in vitro by IVF either using sex-sorted semen or conventional unsorted semen followed by embryo sexing based on a biopsy. In Experiment 3, endometrial explants were cultured alone or in the presence of bovine blastocysts (n = 25) or murine blastocysts (n = 25). Following culture, explants were snap frozen and stored at −80°C until RNA extraction, qPCR or RNA-Seq. Culture with bovine blastocysts increased endometrial expression of 40 transcripts, all of which were interferon-tau induced. Culture with male or female bovine blastocysts increased transcript abundance of five classic interferon-stimulated genes (MX1, MX2, ISG15, OASY1, RSAD2) in explants; however, there was no difference in abundance of transcripts previously reported to be related to embryonic sex (IFNAR1, IFNAR2, CTGF, ARTN, SLC2A1, SLC2A5). Exposure to murine blastocysts did not elicit any detectable change in transcript abundance. These findings, coupled with our previous data, indicate that very local, interferon-tau-induced changes in endometrial gene expression occur in response to blastocysts; whether such changes play any role in subsequent pregnancy recognition remains to be established.