Expression of the uterine Mx protein in cyclic and pregnant cows, gilts, and mares.
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Pregnancy and interferon-tau (IFN tau) upregulate uterine Mx gene expression in ewes; however, the only known role for Mx is in the immune response to viral infection. We hypothesize that Mx functions as a conceptus-induced component of the anti-luteolytic mechanism and/or regulator of endometrial secretion or uterine remodeling during early pregnancy. This study was conducted to determine the effects of early pregnancy on uterine Mx expression in domestic farm species with varied mechanisms of pregnancy recognition. Endometrium from cows, gilts, and mares was collected during the first 20 d of the estrous cycle or pregnancy, and total messenger RNA (mRNA) and protein were analyzed for steady-state levels of Mx mRNA and protein. Northern blot analysis of Mx mRNA detected an approximately 2.5 Kb of mRNA in endometrium from each species. In pregnant cows, steady-state levels of Mx mRNA increased 10-fold (P < 0.05) above levels observed in cyclic cows by d 15 to 18. In cyclic gilts, slot blot analysis indicated that endometrial Mx mRNA levels did not change between d 5 and 18 of the cycle. However, in pregnant gilts, Mx levels tended (P = 0.06) to be elevated two-fold on d 16 only, and in situ hybridization indicated that this increase occurred in the stroma. In mares, Mx mRNA was low, but detectable, and did not change between ovulation (d 0) and d 20, regardless of reproductive status. Western blot analysis revealed multiple immunoreactive Mx protein bands in each species. One band was specific to pregnancy in cows. As in ewes, in situ hybridization analysis indicated that Mx mRNA was strongly expressed in the luminal epithelium, stroma, and myometrium by d 18 in cows. However, on d 14 in gilts, Mx was expressed primarily in the stroma, and on d 14 in mares, low levels of Mx expression were confined largely to the luminal epithelium. The uteruses of cows, gilts, and mares express Mx, and expression is upregulated during pregnancy in cows and gilts--animals whose conceptuses secrete interferons during early pregnancy, but that possess different mechanisms for pregnancy recognition.