Regulation of expression of the class I major histocompatability complex (MHC class I) at the maternal fetal interface may play a critical role in embryo survival and the establishment of pregnancy in cattle. However, information concerning immunoregulation of implantation in cattle remains quite limited. Therefore, our current research is concerned with characterizing the expression and regulatory effect of a number of immune factors in the developing bovine embryo. We have analysed the effect of embryo culture in vitro (IVC) in medium supplemented with progesterone (P4): leukemia inhibitory factor (LIF), interferon gamma (IFNG), interleukin (IL)-1B, IL3, IL4, IL10 and granulocyte-colony stimulating factor (G-CSF) on in vitro embryo development and expression of the bovine non-classical MHC class I genes NC2, NC3 and N4 in blastocysts. Cytokine supplementation during IVC did not affect cleavage rate or blastocyst development. However, embryo mRNA expression of NC2, NC3 and NC4 was significantly (p≤0.05) modified in a gene- and cytokine-specific manner. Sequence analysis of the promoter regions of these genes confirmed the presence of appropriate binding sites through which the cytokine signalling could be mediated. In contrast to the lack of effect on in vitro blastocyst development, the non-classical MHC-I expression data suggests a preferential immunomodulatory role of these cytokines during preimplantation embryo development.
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