Equine Endometrial Gene Expression Changes During and After Maternal Recognition of Pregnancy

The Journal of Animal Science has a new article available through sciencesocieties.org titled, “Equine endometrial gene expression changes during and after maternal recognition of pregnancy.”

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The mechanism for maternal recognition of pregnancy (MRP) in horses is unknown. To maintain a pregnancy, a mobile conceptus must be recognized by the uterus before d 14 postovulation (PO). This recognition prevents endometrial secretion of PGF2α on d14 through 16, which would otherwise initiate luteolysis. The objective of this study was to evaluate gene expression in the endometrium of pregnant and nonpregnant mares during and after MRP to identify possible genes involved during this time. Twelve normally cycling mares were used in a crossover design and randomly assigned to a specific collection day. Endometrial samples were collected from a pregnant and nonpregnant (nonmated) mare on cycle d 12, 14, 16, and 18 (n = 3/d) PO. Microarray analysis comparing the endometrial gene expression in pregnant and nonpregnant mares revealed no differences at d 12. Ten genes were identified to have consistently higher or lower expression levels in the endometrium from pregnant versus nonpregnant mares on d 14, 16, and 18 (P < 0.001). The expression of these 10 genes was further analyzed with real-time PCR. d 14, 16, and 18 gene expression patterns were consistent with the microarray analysis, but on d 12, 4 of the 10 were identified as differentially expressed. Endometrial samples were then collected on d 13 PO (n = 3) and processed for western blot and immunohistochemical analysis of 2 proteins due to their reproductive significance. SPLA2 and DKK1 antibody specificity were confirmed via western blot analysis but were not different in samples from pregnant and nonpregnant mares (P = 0.114 and P = 0.514, respectively) and cellular localization was examined by immunohistochemical analysis. This is the first study to describe gene expression and cellular localization in the endometrium at the time of MRP for these genes and suggests that the uterus does not prepare to support a pregnancy until d 14. The function of these genes may be critical in the process of MRP.


K.M. Klohonatz and J.E. Bruemmer, Department of Animal Sciences, Colorado State University, Fort Collins; A.M. Hess, Department of Statistics and Bioinformatics, Colorado State University, Fort Collins; T.R. Hansen and G.J. Bourma, Department of Biomedical Sciences, Colorado State University, Fort Collins; E.L. Squires, Department of Veterinary Science, University of Kentucky, Lexington.

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