Pregnancy recognition signaling mechanisms in ruminants and pigs.
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Maternal recognition of pregnancy refers to the requirement for the conceptus (embryo and its associated extra-embryonic membranes) to produce a hormone that acts on the uterus and/or corpus luteum (CL) to ensure maintenance of a functional CL for production of progesterone; the hormone required for pregnancy in most mammals. The pregnancy recognition signal in primates is chorionic gonadotrophin which acts directly on the CL via luteinizing hormone receptors to ensure maintenance of functional CL during pregnancy. In ruminants, interferon tau (IFNT) is the pregnancy recognition signal. IFNT is secreted during the peri-implantation period of pregnancy and acts on uterine epithelia to silence expression of estrogen receptor alpha and oxytocin receptor which abrogates the oxytocin-dependent release of luteolytic pulses of prostaglandin F2-alpha (PGF) by uterine epithelia; therefore, the CL continues to produce progesterone required for pregnancy. Pig conceptuses secrete interferon delta and interferon gamma during the peri-implantation period of pregnancy, but there is no evidence that they are involved in pregnancy recognition signaling. Rather, pig conceptuses secrete abundant amounts of estrogens between Days 11 to 15 of pregnancy required for maternal recognition of pregnancy. Estrogen, likely in concert with prolactin, prevents secretion of PGF into the uterine venous drainage (endocrine secretion), but maintains secretion of PGF into the uterine lumen (exocrine secretion) where it is metabolized to a form that is not luteolytic. Since PGF is sequestered within the uterine lumen and unavailable to induce luteolysis, functional CL are maintained for production of progesterone. In addition to effects of chorionic gonadotrophin, IFNT and estrogens to signal pregnancy recognition, these hormones act on uterine epithelia to enhance expression of genes critical for growth and development of the conceptus.
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