Establishment and maintenance of pregnancy are critically dependent on embryo-maternal communication during the preimplantation period. The horse is one of the few domestic species in which the conceptus-derived pregnancy recognition signal has not been identified. To gain new insights into the factors released by the equine conceptus, transcriptional profiling analyses of conceptuses retrieved 8, 10, 12, and 14 days after ovulation were performed using a whole-genome microarray. Selected array data were confirmed using quantitative PCR, and the expression of proteins of interest was confirmed using immunohistochemistry and Western blotting. Gene ontology classification of differentially regulated transcripts underlines the ongoing embryo-maternal dialogue. Transcript showing higher expression levels as conceptus' development proceeds mainly localizes to the extracellular environment, thereby having the potential to act upon the uterine environment. Genes involved in the positive regulation of the immune system are enriched among transcripts displaying decreased expression, reflecting the need of the semiallograft conceptus to be protected from the immune system. A subset of differentially expressed genes, such as BRCA1 and FGF2, has previously been described to be expressed by early stages of embryonic development, whereas other transcripts are apparently unique to equine conceptuses, as their expression has not been reported in other species. These transcripts include fibrinogen subunits, the expressions of which were confirmed at the mRNA and protein level. Furthermore, results indicate the counteraction of trophoblast invasion, and that the conceptus appears to regulate changes in sialic acid content of its capsule, an event suggested to be essential for successful establishment of pregnancy.
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Vol. 84 • No. 5