Fetal-maternal interactions during the establishment of pregnancy in ruminants
This review integrates established information with new insights into molecular and physiological mechanisms responsible for events leading to pregnancy recognition, endometrial receptivity, and implantation with emphasis on sheep. After formation of the corpus luteum, progesterone acts on the endometrium and stimulates blastocyst growth and elongation to form a filamentous conceptus (embryo/fetus and associated extraembryonic membranes). Recurrent early pregnancy loss in the uterine gland knockout ewe model indicates that endometrial epithelial secretions are essential for peri-implantation blastocyst survival and growth. The elongating sheep conceptus secretes interferon tau (IFNT) that acts on the endometrium to inhibit development of the luteolytic mechanism by inhibiting transcription of the estrogen receptor alpha (ESR1) gene in the luminal (LE) and superficial ductal glandular (sGE) epithelia, which prevents estrogen-induction of oxytocin receptors (OXTR) and production of luteolytic prostaglandin F2-alpha pulses. Progesterone downregulates its receptors (PGR) in LE and then GE, correlating with a reduction of anti-adhesive MUC1 (mucin glycoprotein one) and induction of secreted LGALS15 (galectin 15) and SPP1 (secreted phosphoprotein one), that are proposed to regulate trophectoderm growth and adhesion. IFNT acts on the LE to induce WNT7A (wingless-type MMTV integration site family member 7A) and to stimulate LGALS15, CTSL (cathepsin L), and CST3 (cystatin C), which may regulate conceptus development and implantation. During the peri-implantation period, trophoblast giant binucleate cells (BNC) begin to differentiate from mononuclear trophectoderm cells, migrate and then fuse with the uterine LE as well as each other to form multinucleated syncytial plaques. Trophoblast giant BNC secrete chorionic somatomammotropin (CSH1 or placental lactogen) that acts on the endometrial glands to stimulate their morphogenesis and differentiated function. The interactive, coordinated and stage-specific effects of ovarian and placental hormones regulate endometrial events necessary for fetal-maternal interactions and successful establishment of pregnancy.