Leukemia inhibitory factor (LIF) is transiently expressed on Day (D) 1 of pregnancy by the uterine epithelium and on D4 specifically by the glandular epithelium. The Lif knockout female mice are infertile because of uterine defects that affect embryo implantation, but pregnancy can be rescued in these mice by injections of LIF on D4 of pregnancy. Many of the specific actions of LIF in the uterus are unknown, especially with regard to uterine cell biology. Leukocytes, such as macrophages, natural killer (NK) cells, and eosinophils, are present in the pregnant uterus and are thought to be beneficial, because alterations in their proportions can adversely affect pregnancy. Immunocytochemistry and cell counting were used to compare the distributions and dynamics of leukocyte subpopulations in wild-type and Lif knockout mice. The percentage of macrophages was reduced by more than half in the Lif knockout mice on D3 of pregnancy, and their distribution was disrupted, suggesting that LIF is a chemokine for these cells. The NK cells were detected as early as D3 of pregnancy, but the Lif knockout mice had double the percentage of NK cells compared to wild-type mice at this time, indicating that LIF restricts the migration of NK cells to the uterus. The Lif knockout mice also had significantly higher percentages of eosinophils in the outer stroma on D3, and in the midstroma on D4, of pregnancy, suggesting that LIF also may restrict eosinophil migration to the uterus. These alterations of the uterine leukocyte subpopulations in Lif knockout mice may disrupt pregnancy and contribute to failure of implantation.
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