This study sought to determine the earliest response of the bovine uterine endometrium to the presence of the conceptus at key developmental stages of early pregnancy. There were no detectable differences in gene expression in endometria from pregnant and cyclic heifers on Days 5, 7, and 13 postestrus, but the expression of 764 genes was altered due to the presence of the conceptus at maternal recognition of pregnancy (Day 16). Of these 514 genes, MX2, BST2, RSAD2, ISG15, OAS1, USP18, IFI44, ISG20, SAMD9, EIF4E, and IFIT2 increased to the greatest extent in pregnant endometria (>8-fold log2 fold change increase). The expression of OXTR, Bt.643 (unofficial symbol), and KCNMA1 was reduced the most, but short-term treatment with recombinant ovine interferon tau (IFNT) in vitro or in vivo did not alter their expression. In vivo intrauterine infusion of IFNT induced the expression of EIF4E, IFIT2, IFI44, ISG20, MX2, RSAD2, SAMD9, and USP18. These results revealed for the first time that changes that occur in the endometrial transcriptome are independent of the presence of a conceptus until pregnancy recognition. The differentially expressed genes (including MX2, BST2, RSAD2, ISG15, OAS1, USP18, IFI44, ISG20, SAMD, and EIF4E) are a consequence of IFNT production by the conceptus. The identified genes represent known and novel early markers of conceptus development and/or return to cyclicity and may be useful to identify the earliest stage at which the endometrial response to the conceptus is detectable.
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