Insulin-like growth factor-I (IGF-I) promotes early embryonic development in several species. In the rabbit, IGF-I binds to the embryonic coats from Day 3 of development onward by a 38-kDa protein that is probably insulin-like growth factor-binding protein 3 (IGFBP3). In the present study, ligand, Western, and Northern blot analyses were used to demonstrate the presence of IGF-I-binding activity, several immunoreactive IGFBP3 proteins, and IGFBP3 mRNA in horse conceptuses with particularly large amounts of immunoreactive IGFBP3 in the conceptus capsule. In addition, immunoprecipitation of radiolabeled proteins showed that cultured horse conceptuses secreted IGFBP3 into the culture medium. Endometrial samples from mares also contained IGFBP3 mRNA and protein; but there was no evidence of secretion of IGFBP3 into the uterine lumen by ligand blot analysis, and there was evidence of only very small amounts by Western blot analysis.
These results indicate that the horse conceptus secretes significant quantities of IGFBP3 toward the conceptus capsule from as early as Day 10 after ovulation. Thus, most of the IGFBP3 contained within the capsule, which binds IGF-I to this special extracellular matrix of the preimplantation horse conceptus, is likely to be embryonic in origin. IGFBP3 in the horse conceptus capsule may enhance or modulate the action of IGFs on the developing conceptus.