Initiation and maintenance of pregnancy are critically dependent on an intact embryo-maternal communication in the preimplantation period. To get new insights into molecular mechanisms underlying this complex dialog, a holistic transcriptome study of endometrium samples from Day 18 pregnant vs. nonpregnant twin cows was performed. This genetically defined model system facilitated the identification of specific conceptus-induced changes of the endometrium transcriptome. Using a combination of subtracted cDNA libraries and cDNA array hybridization, 87 different genes were identified as upregulated in pregnant animals. Almost one half of these genes are known to be stimulated by type I interferons. For the ISG15ylation system, which is assumed to play an important role in interferon tau (IFNT) signaling, mRNAs of four potential components (IFITM1, IFITM3, HSXIAPAF1, and DTX3L) were found at increased levels in addition to ISG15 and UBE1L. These results were further substantiated by colocalization of these mRNAs in the endometrium of pregnant animals shown by in situ hybridization. A functional classification of the identified genes revealed several different biological processes involved in the preparation of the endometrium for the attachment and implantation of the embryo. Specifically, elevated transcript levels were found for genes involved in modulation of the maternal immune system, genes relevant for cell adhesion, and for remodeling of the endometrium. This first systematic study of maternal transcriptome changes in response to the presence of an embryo on Day 18 of pregnancy in cattle is an important step toward deciphering the embryo-maternal dialog using a systems biology approach.
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