This review integrates established and new information on the factors and pathways regulating conceptus-endometrial interactions, conceptus elongation and establishment of pregnancy in sheep and cattle. Establishment of pregnancy in domestic ruminants begins at the conceptus stage (embryo or fetus and associated extra-embryonic membranes) and includes pregnancy recognition signalling, implantation and the onset of placentation. Survival and growth of the preimplantation blastocyst and elongating conceptus require embryotrophic factors (amino acids, carbohydrates, proteins, lipids and other substances) provided by the uterus. The coordinated and interactive actions of ovarian progesterone and conceptus-derived factors (interferon-τ and prostaglandins) regulate expression of elongation- and implantation-related genes in the endometrial epithelia that alter the uterine luminal milieu and affect trophectoderm proliferation, migration, attachment, differentiation and function. A comparison of sheep and cattle finds both conserved and non-conserved embryotrophic factors in the uterus; however, the overall biological pathways governing conceptus elongation and establishment of pregnancy are likely conserved. Given that most pregnancy losses in ruminants occur during the first month of pregnancy, increased knowledge is necessary to understand why and provide a basis for new strategies to improve pregnancy outcome and reproductive efficiency.
University College Dublin ->