In mammals, successful pregnancy is dependent in part on the adaptation or regulation of the maternal immune system to prevent the rejection of the embryonic semiallograft. A modification in Th cell function and secretion is a requirement for the establishment and maintenance of pregnancy. Although there is strong evidence from studies in humans and mice linking successful pregnancy with the predominance of Th2-type immunity, the situation in cattle remains unclear. This study describes the characterization of the immune response of the bovine maternal endometrium to the presence of a developing embryo, with specific emphasis on the macrophage and dendritic cell populations and associated factors, using quantitative real-time PCR, in situ hybridization, and immunohistochemistry. Furthermore, in vivo and in vitro models were developed to investigate the potential role of progesterone and interferon-tau (IFNT) in the regulation of these immune factors. There was a marked increase in the population of CD14 cells and CD172a-CD11c cells in the endometrium in response to pregnancy, which was paralleled by increased mRNA expression of a number of non-Th-associated factors, including IL12B and IL15, and downregulation of IL18. In addition, we identified several novel IFNT- and progesterone-regulated factors, including IL12B, MCP1, MCP2, PTX3, RSAD2, and TNFA, whose regulation may be critical to pregnancy outcome. Our findings give center stage to non-Th cells, such as monocytes/macrophages and dendritic cells, in the bovine immune response to the semiallogenic embryo. In conclusion, we propose that in cattle, successful pregnancy establishment is associated with a dramatic regulation of the cytokine network, primarily by endometrial monocytes/macrophages and dendritic cells.
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Vol. 87 • No. 5