Progesterone (P4) acts via the endometrium to promote conceptus growth and implantation for pregnancy establishment. Many cells release extracellular vesicles (EVs) that are membrane-bound vesicles of endosomal and plasma membrane origin. In sheep, endometrial-derived EVs were found to traffic to the conceptus trophectoderm. Thus, EVs are hypothesized to be an important mode of intercellular communication by transferring select RNAs, proteins, and lipids between the endometrium and conceptus. Electronmicroscopy analysis found that the endometrial luminal and glandular epithelia were the primary source of EVs in the uterus of cyclic sheep. Size exclusion chromatography and nanoparticle tracking analysis (NTA) found that total EV number in the uterine lumen increased from day 10 to 14 in cyclic sheep. Next, ewes were ovariectomized and hormone replaced to determine effects of P4 on the endometrium and EVs in the uterine lumen. Transcriptome analyses found that P4 regulated 1611 genes and nine miRNAs in the endometrium. Total EV number in the uterine lumen was increased by P4 treatment. Small RNA sequencing of EVs detected expression of 768 miRNAs and determined that P4 regulated seven of thosemiRNAs. These studies provide fundamental new information on how P4 influences endometrial function to regulate conceptus growth for pregnancy establishment in sheep.
Progesterone regulates extracellular vesicles and miRNAs in the ovine uterus.