Interferon tau (IFNT) is secreted by the trophectoderm of ruminant conceptuses during the peri-implantation period and serves an anti-luteolytic function. The question as to whether IFNT is superior as an anti-luteolytic agent to closely related Type I IFNs, such as IFN alpha (IFNA), which have a different function, remains unanswered. Thus, the aim of this study was to determine whether equivalent antiviral (AV) units of ovIFNA and ovIFNT are equipotent in extending estrous cycle length. Four distinct ovIFNA mRNA (ovIFNA1–4) were cloned from ovine lymphocytes. Recombinant ovine IFNs (ovIFNT4 and ovIFNA1) were prepared in the yeast Pichia pastoris. The AV activity of the purified IFNs was determined on a bovine cell line (MDBK) and on transformed ovine luminal uterine epithelial cells. Indwelling uterine catheters were fitted into crossbred ewes on Day 3 postestrus (Day 0 = estrus). Between Days 10 and 18 postestrus, ewes received twice-daily infusions of 0.7 × 107 IU of either ovIFNA1 or T4, plus serum albumin. Control ewes received serum albumin only. Daily blood samples were collected for progesterone determination, and ewes were monitored twice daily for estrus. Both ovIFNA (P = 0.04) and ovIFNT (P = 0.01) caused estrous cycle extension in nonpregnant ewes compared to controls when administered at equivalent AV doses. In conclusion, the uniqueness of IFNT as an anti-luteolytic agent most likely resides in its unique expression pattern rather than its special biopotency.
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