Mass spectrometry (MS) approaches were used herein to identify metabolites and proteins in uterine flushings (UF) that may contribute to nourishing the conceptus. Ovine uteri collected on Day 12 of the estrous cycle (n = 5 ewes exposed to vasectomized ram) or Days 12 (n = 4), 14 (n = 5), or 16 (n = 5) of pregnancy (bred with fertile ram) were flushed using buffered saline. Metabolites were extracted using 80% methanol and profiled using ultraperformance liquid chromatography (LC) tandem mass spectrometry. The proteome was examined by digestion with trypsin, followed by the analysis of peptides with LC-MS/MS. Metabolite profiling detected 8510 molecular features of which 9 were detected only in UF from Day 14–16 pregnant ewes that function in fatty acid transport (carnitines), hormone synthesis (androstenedione like), and availability of nutrients (valine). Proteome analysis detected 783 proteins present by Days 14–16 of pregnancy in UF, 7 of which are as follows: annexin (ANX) A1, A2, and A5; calcium-binding protein (S100A11); profilin 1; trophoblast kunitz domain protein 1 (TKDP); and interferon tau (IFNT). These proteins function in endocytosis, exocytosis, calcium signaling, and inhibition of prostaglandins (annexins and S100A11); protecting against maternal proteases (TKDP); remodeling cytoskeleton (profilin 1); and altering uterine release of prostaglandin F2 alpha as well as inducing IFNT-stimulated genes in the endometrium and the corpus luteum (IFNT). Identifying metabolites and proteins produced by the uterus and conceptus advances our understanding of embryo/maternal signaling and provides insights into possible the causes of reproductive failure.
Discovery of metabolites and proteins in uterine flushings contributes to understanding how the conceptus communicates with the endometrium during early pregnancy in sheep.