Early embryonic losses are much higher in nuclear transfer (cloned) pregnancies, and this is a major impediment to improving the efficiency of cloned animal production. In cattle, many of these losses occur around the time of placental attachment from the fourth week of gestation. We studied the potential for altered immunologic status of cloned pregnancies to be a contributing factor to these embryonic losses. Expression of major histocompatibility complex class I (MHC-I) by trophoblast cells and distribution of endometrial T-lymphocyte numbers were investigated. Six 5-wk-old cloned pregnancies were generated, and 2 others at 7 and 9 wk were also included, all derived from the same fetal cell line. All 8 cloned placentas displayed trophoblast MHC-I expression. None of the 8 controls (4–7 wk old) showed any MHC-I expression. The percentage of trophoblast cells expressing MHC-I varied in the clones from 17.9% to 56.5%. Numbers of T lymphocytes (CD3 lymphocytes) were significantly higher in the endometrium of the majority of cloned pregnancies compared with controls. In the cloned pregnancies, large aggregates of T cells were frequently observed in the endometrium in addition to increased numbers of diffusely spread subepithelial lymphocytes. As trophoblast MHC-I expression is normally suppressed during early gestation, the observed MHC-I expression in the cloned pregnancies is likely to have induced a maternal lymphocytic response that would be detrimental to maintaining viability of the cloned pregnancy. These findings support a role for immunologic rejection in the syndrome of early embryonic loss in cloned bovine pregnancies.
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