The cervix and its secretions undergo biochemical and physical changes under the differential influences of estrogen and progesterone. These include changes in the glycoprotein profile of the endocervix and its secretions. A comprehensive survey of such changes in cervical epithelium and cervical secretions was performed on bovine samples throughout the periestrous period. Cervical tissue samples and swabs were collected from synchronized beef heifers that were slaughtered 1) 12 h after controlled intravaginal progesterone-releasing device (CIDR) removal, 2) 24 h after CIDR removal, 3) at the onset of estrus, 4) 12 h after the onset of estrus, 5) 48 h after the onset of estrus, and 6) 7 d after the onset of estrus. Histological staining with hematoxylin and eosin, periodic acid Schiff, Alcian blue, and high-iron diamine was carried out to map overall patterns of stored glycoproteins and tissue structure. Biotinylated lectins were also used to detect the presence and distribution of a range of saccharide structures. The activities of β-galactosidase, α-L-fucosidase, β-N-acetyl-hexosaminidase, and sialidase were measured in cervical swabs using specific substrates. The epithelial layer of the cervix exhibited dynamic changes in cellular hypertrophy and amounts of stored glycoprotein. The greatest content of neutral and acidic mucins was observed 48 h after onset of estrus (P < 0.05). Sialylated mucins predominated at the bases of cervical folds, whereas sulfated mucins were more abundant (P < 0.05) at their apices. The stained area of core mucin glycans changed (P < 0.05) in association with follicular versus luteal phases, whereas terminal glycans changed (P < 0.05) mainly at the time of estrus and shortly thereafter. The greatest activity of β-galactosidase and sialidase was observed 12 h after onset of estrus, whereas β-hexosaminidase and α-fucosidase peaked at the luteal time point (P < 0.05). Taken together, we suggest that the well-known changes in the endocervix and its secretions that are associated with the physiological modulation of sperm transport and function of the cervical barrier are, in part, driven by glycosylation changes.
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