Establishment of pregnancy in the pig depends on down-regulation of progesterone receptor (PGR) in the uterine luminal and glandular epithelium during the first week after breeding. The present study evaluated the regulation of endometrial PGR by progesterone and the possible role of endometrial tumor necrosis factor (ligand) superfamily member 11 (TNFSF11) and nuclear factor-kappa B (NFKB) activation in PGR expression. Mature, cycling gilts were inseminated (Day 0) and assigned to either untreated control (n = 9) or one of two treatments that employed RU 486 to block progesterone action either before (treatment 1 [T1]) or after (treatment 2 [T2]) the initiation of PGR down-regulation. The T1 gilts were treated with RU 486 (400 mg/day) on Days 3–5 of pregnancy (n = 9), and T2 gilts were treated with RU 486 on Days 6 and 7 of pregnancy (n = 9). Uteri and ovaries were collected on Day 8 or 12 of gestation. The diameter of the conceptuses in T1 gilts was approximately half that in controls by Day 8, and normal conceptuses were not collected from any T1 gilts on Day 12. Endometrial PGR mRNA was more abundant in T1 and T2 gilts compared with control gilts. The PGR-B protein decreased from Day 8 to Day 12 in the luminal epithelium and, to some extent, in superficial glandular epithelium in control and T2 gilts. In T1 gilts, the PGR-B protein remained elevated (i.e., failed to undergo down-regulation) on Day 12. Blocking PGR action early in the cycle (i.e., on or before Day 5), therefore, prevented normal conceptus development, caused elevated PGR mRNA, and prevented the decrease in PGR protein that typically occurs in pigs. We could not confirm a role for NFKB activation in PGR down-regulation, because pigs with extreme differences in PGR and TNFSF11 expression (T1 and controls) had similar NFKB activation on Day 8. Activated NFKB within the luminal epithelium and glandular epithelium (both superficial and deep) was observed in T2 and control pigs on Day 12 when elongating conceptuses (presumably releasing interleukin 1 beta to activate NFKB) were recovered. Gilts treated with RU 486 had greater ovarian follicular growth and greater plasma estradiol concentrations. We conclude that the mechanisms controlling PGR down-regulation are progesterone-dependent and occur between Day 3 and Day 6 of pregnancy. NFKB activation did not appear to have a role in PGR down-regulation within the period that we studied. Blocking progesterone action after Day 6 did not reverse the process of PGR down-regulation, nor did it appear to affect the development of conceptuses collected on Day 12.
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Vol. 84 • No. 1