A hormonal servomechanism has been proposed to regulate differentiation and function of the endometrial glandular epithelium (GE) in the ovine uterus during pregnancy. This mechanism involves sequential actions of estrogen, progesterone, ovine interferon τ (IFNτ), placental lactogen (oPL), and placental growth hormone (oGH). The biological actions of oPL in vitro are mediated by homodimerization of the prolactin receptor (oPRLR) and heterodimerization of the oPRLR and oGH receptor. The objectives of the study were to determine the effects of intrauterine oPL, oGH, and their combination on endometrial histoarchitecture and gene expression and to localize and characterize binding sites for oPL in the ovine uterus in vivo using an in situ ligand binding assay. Intrauterine infusion of oPL and/or oGH following IFNτ into ovariectomized ewes treated with progesterone daily differentially affected endometrial gland number and expression of uterine milk proteins and osteopontin. However, neither hormone affected PRLR, insulin-like growth factor (IGF)-I, or IGF-II mRNA levels in the endometrium. A chimeric protein of placental secretory alkaline phosphatase (SEAP) and oPL was used to identify and characterize binding sites for oPL in frozen sections of interplacentomal endometrium from pregnant ewes. Specific binding of SEAP-oPL was detected in the endometrial GE on Days 30, 60, 90, and 120 of pregnancy. In Day 90 endometrium, SEAP-oPL binding to the endometrial GE was displaced completely by oPL and prolactin (oPRL) but only partially by oGH. Binding experiments using the extracellular domain of the oPRLR also showed that iodinated oPL binding sites could be competed for by oPRL and oPL but not by oGH. Collectively, results indicate that oPL binds to receptors in the endometrial glands and that oPRL is more effective than oGH in competing for these binding sites. Thus, effects of oPL on the endometrial glands may be mediated by receptors for oPRL and oGH.
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