The oviduct plays a crucial role in fertilization and early embryo development providing the microenvironment for oocyte, spermatozoa, and early embryo. Since dairy cow fertility declined steadily over the last decades, reasons for early embryonic loss have gained increasing interest. Analyzing two animal models, this study aimed to investigate the impact of genetic predisposition for fertility and of metabolic stress on the protein composition of oviduct fluid. A metabolic model comprised maiden Holstein heifers and postpartum lactating (Lact) and non-lactating (Dry) cows, while a genetic model consisted of heifers from the Montbéliarde breed and Holstein heifers with low- and high-fertility index. In a holistic proteomic analysis of oviduct fluid from all groups using nano-liquid chromatography tandem-mass spectrometry analysis and label-free quantification, we were able to identify 1976 proteins, among which 143 showed abundance alterations in the pairwise comparisons within both models. Most differentially abundant proteins were revealed between low fertility Holstein and Montbéliarde (52) in the genetic model and between lactating and maiden Holstein (19) in the metabolic model, demonstrating a substantial effect of genetic predisposition for fertility and metabolic stress on the oviduct fluid proteome. Functional classification of affected proteins revealed actin binding, translation, and immune system processes as prominent gene ontology (GO) clusters. Notably, Actin-related protein 2/3 complex subunit 1B and the three immune system-related proteins SERPIND1 protein, immunoglobulin kappa locus protein, and Alpha-1-acid glycoprotein were affected in both models, suggesting that abundance changes of immune-related proteins in oviduct fluid play an important role for early embryonic loss.
Protein composition of oviduct fluid—the natural environment for the early embryo—depends on metabolic status and genetic predisposition of dairy cows, affecting, among others, proteins related to immune response.