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14 July 2016 Identification of Beef Heifers with Superior Uterine Capacity for Pregnancy
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Abstract

Infertility and subfertility represent major problems in domestic animals and humans, and the majority of embryonic loss occurs during the first month of gestation that involves pregnancy recognition and conceptus implantation. The critical genes and physiological pathways in the endometrium that mediate pregnancy establishment and success are not well understood. In study one, predominantly Angus heifers were classified based on fertility using serial embryo transfer to select animals with intrinsic differences in pregnancy loss. In each of the four rounds, a single in vitro-produced, high-quality embryo was transferred into heifers on Day 7 postestrus and pregnancy was determined on Days 28 and 42 by ultrasound and then terminated. Heifers were classified based on pregnancy success as high fertile (HF), subfertile (SF), or infertile (IF). In study two, fertility-classified heifers were resynchronized and bred with semen from a single high-fertility bull. Blood samples were collected every other day from Days 0 to 36 postmating. Pregnancy rate was determined on Day 28 by ultrasound and was higher in HF (70.4%) than in heifers with low fertility (36.8%; SF and IF). Progesterone concentrations in serum during the first 20 days postestrus were not different in nonpregnant heifers and also not different in pregnant heifers among fertility groups. In study three, a single in vivo-produced embryo was transferred into fertility-classified heifers on Day 7 postestrus. The uteri were flushed on Day 14 to recover embryos, and endometrial biopsies were obtained from the ipsilateral uterine horn. Embryo recovery rate and conceptus length and area were not different among the heifer groups. RNA was sequenced from the Day 14 endometrial biopsies of pregnant HF, SF, and IF heifers (n = 5 per group) and analyzed by edgeR-robust analysis. There were 26 differentially expressed genes (DEGs) in the HF compared to SF endometrium, 12 DEGs for SF compared to IF endometrium, and three DEGs between the HF and IF endometrium. Several of the DEG-encoded proteins are involved in immune responses and are expressed in B cells. Results indicate that preimplantation conceptus survival and growth to Day 14 is not compromised in SF and IF heifers. Thus, the observed difference in capacity for pregnancy success in these fertility-classified heifers is manifest between Days 14 and 28 when pregnancy recognition signaling and conceptus elongation and implantation must occur for the establishment of pregnancy.

Received: 25 April 2016; Accepted: 1 July 2016; Published: 14 July 2016
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