During early pregnancy, pig conceptuses initiate the synthesis of oestrogens and on day 12 their trophoblastic membranes undergo a rapid expansion throughout the uterine horns. The insulin-like growth factor (IGF) system may be involved with conceptus development and steroidogenesis in pigs. Changes in uterine luminal IGF, insulin-like growth factor binding proteins (IGFBPs) and enzymatic activity for cleavage of IGFBPs during the oestrous cycle and early pregnancy were investigated. Uterine luminal content of IGF-I and IGF-II in uterine flushings from pigs on day 12 of pregnancy were two and three times greater, respectively, compared with uterine flushings collected from gilts during the oestrous cycle. Both IGF-I and -II content decreased on day 15 of gestation but content of IGF-II in uterine flushings remained three times greater than that of cyclic gilts. IGFBP-2 and -3 were the predominant binding proteins present in uterine flushings during days 0-10 of the oestrous cycle or day 10 of pregnancy. No IGFBPs were detected in the uterine flushings of either cyclic or pregnant pigs after day 10 by ligand blotting. Incubation of [125I]-labelled IGFBPs with various protease inhibitors indicated that cleavage of [125I]-labelled IGFBP-2 and -3 in uterine flushings involved serine proteases such as tissue kallikrein and matrix metalloproteinases. The results of the present study indicate that an increase in tissue kallikrein activity on day 12 of the oestrous cycle and pregnancy in pigs can directly, or indirectly through activation of matrix metalloproteinases, cleave IGFBP-2 and -3, thus allowing uterine release of IGF-I and -II in the uterine lumen to stimulate conceptus development.
If the inline PDF is not rendering correctly, you can download the PDF file here.