In cattle, elevated concentrations of circulating progesterone (P4) in the immediate postconception period are associated with advanced conceptus development, while low P4 is implicated as a causative factor in low pregnancy rates observed in dairy cows. This study aimed to: 1) describe the transcriptional changes that occur in the bovine endometrium during the estrous cycle, 2) determine how elevated P4 affects these changes, 3) identify if low P4 alters the expression of these genes, and 4) assess the impact that low P4 has on conceptus development. Relatively few differences occurred in endometrial gene expression during the early luteal phase of the estrous cycle (Day 5 vs. 7), but comparison of endometria from more distant stages of the luteal phase (Day 7 vs. 13) revealed large transcriptional changes, which were significantly altered by exogenous supplementation of P4. Induction of low circulating P4 altered the normal temporal changes in gene expression, and these changes were coordinate with a delay in the down-regulation of the PGR from the LE and GE. Altered endometrial gene expression induced by low P4 was associated with a reduced capacity of the uterus to support conceptus development after embryo transfer on Day 7. In conclusion, the present study provides clear evidence that the temporal changes in the transcriptome of the endometrium of cyclic heifers are sensitive to circulating P4 concentrations in the first few days after estrus. Under low P4 conditions, a suboptimal uterine environment with reduced ability to support conceptus elongation is observed.
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