Gap junctional connexin messenger RNA expression in the ovine uterus and placenta: effects of estradiol-17β-treatment, early pregnancy stages, and embryo origin

M L Johnson, D A Redmer, L P Reynolds, A T Grazul-Bilska
Domestic Animal Endocrinology 2017, 58: 104-112
Gap junctions play a major role in direct, contact-dependent cell-cell communication, and they have been implicated in the regulation of cellular metabolism and the coordination of cellular functions during growth and differentiation of organs and tissues. Gap junctional channels, composed of connexin (Cx) proteins, have been detected and shown to be influenced by hormones (eg, estrogen and progesterone) in uterine and placental tissues in several species. We hypothesized that (1) the messenger RNA (mRNA) for Cx26, Cx32, Cx37, and Cx43 is expressed in the uterus of ovariectomized sheep treated with estradiol-17β (E2) and in ovine placenta during early pregnancy, (2) E2-treatment of ovariectomized ewes would cause time-specific changes in Cx26, Cx32, Cx37, and Cx43 mRNA expression (experiment 1), and (3) expression of these 4 Cx would vary across the days of early pregnancy (experiment 2) and will be affected by embryo origin (ie, after application of assisted reproductive technologies [ARTs]; experiment 3). Thus, we collected uterine tissues at 0 to 24 h after E2 treatments (experiment 1), and placental tissues during days 14 to 30 of early pregnancy after natural (NAT) breeding (experiment 2) and on day 22 of early pregnancy established after transfer of embryos generated through natural breeding (NAT-ET), in vitro fertilization (IVF), or in vitro activation (IVA, parthenotes; experiment 3). In experiment 1, the expression of Cx26, Cx37, and Cx43 mRNA increased (P < 0.05) and Cx32 mRNA decreased (P < 0.06) in both caruncular and intercaruncular tissues after E2 treatment. In experiment 2, during early pregnancy, there were significant changes (P < 0.01) across days in the expression of Cx26, Cx37, and Cx43 mRNA in the maternal placenta, accompanied by changes (P < 0.001) in Cx37 and Cx43 mRNA in the fetal placenta. In experiment 3, in maternal placenta, Cx32 mRNA expression was decreased (P < 0.001) in NAT-ET, IVF, and IVA groups compared to the NAT group; but in fetal placenta, Cx32 mRNA expression was increased (P < 0.05) in NAT-ET, IVF and IVF groups, and Cx26 mRNA expression was increased (P < 0.05) in IVA compared to NAT group. These data suggest that Cx26, Cx32, Cx37, and Cx43 play specific roles in E2-regulated uterine function and in placental development during early gestation both after natural mating and with application of ART.

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