Progesterone-induced blocking factor (PIBF) and galectins modulate the maternal immune response during pregnancy. We hypothesized that the relative transcript abundance of the above genes would be different during the luteal phase/early pregnancy and would be affected by progesterone supplementation. To further test this, hypothesis protein expression analyses were carried out to evaluate the abundance and localization of LGALS9 and PIBF. Following estrus synchronization, heifers were inseminated (n = 140) or not (n = 70). Half the heifers in each status (cyclic or potentially pregnant) were randomly assigned to receive a progesterone-releasing intravaginal device (PRID) on day 3 after estrus, which elevated progesterone concentrations from day 3.5 to 8 (P < 0.05), resulting in four treatment groups: cyclic and pregnant heifers, each with normal and high progesterone. After confirmation of pregnancy status in inseminated animals, uterine tissue was collected on days 5, 7, 13, or 16 of the luteal phase of the cycle/pregnancy. Gene and protein expression was determined using Q-RT-PCR and IHC, respectively, on 5 heifers per treatment per time point (i.e., 80 in total). Progesterone concentrations did not affect expression of any of the genes (P > 0.05). LGALS9 and LGALS3BP were expressed at low levels in both cyclic and pregnant endometria until day 13. On day 16, expression increased only in the pregnant heifers (P < 0.0001). LGALS1 and LGALS3 decreased on day 7 (P < 0.0001) and remained low until day 16. Pregnancy had no effect on the expression of LGALS1, LGALS3, and PIBF. Additionally, LGALS9 and PIBF proteins were expressed in distinct uterine cell types. These results indicate that the galectins may be involved in uterine receptivity and/or implantation in heifers.
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