The lactocrine hypothesis for maternal programming of neonatal development was proposed to describe a mechanism through which milk-borne bioactive factors, delivered from mother to nursing offspring, could affect development of tissues, including the uterus. Porcine uterine development, initiated before birth, is completed postnatally. However, age- and lactocrine-sensitive elements of the neonatal porcine uterine developmental program are undefined. Here, effects of age and nursing on the uterine transcriptome for 48 h from birth (Postnatal Day [PND] = 0) were identified using RNA sequencing (RNAseq). Uterine tissues were obtained from neonatal gilts (n = 4 per group) within 1 h of birth and before feeding (PND 0), or 48 h after nursing ad libitum (PND 2N) or feeding a commercial milk replacer (PND 2R). RNAseq analysis revealed differentially expressed genes (DEGs) associated with both age (PND 2N vs. PND 0; 3283 DEGs) and nursing on PND 2 (PND 2N vs PND 2R; 896 DEGs). Expression of selected uterine genes was validated using quantitative real-time PCR. Bioinformatic analyses revealed multiple biological processes enriched in response to both age and nursing, including cell adhesion, morphogenesis, and cell-cell signaling. Age-sensitive pathways also included estrogen receptor-alpha and hedgehog signaling cascades. Lactocrine-sensitive processes in nursed gilts included those involved in response to wounding, the plasminogen activator network and coagulation. Overall, RNAseq analysis revealed comprehensive age- and nursing-related transcriptomic differences in the neonatal porcine uterus and identified novel pathways and biological processes regulating uterine development.
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Vol. 94 • No. 2