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Reproduction. 2004 Aug;128(2):237-47.

Seminal plasma regulates endometrial cytokine expression, leukocyte recruitment and embryo development in the pig.

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  • 1Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology and Centre for Reproductive Health, The University of Adelaide, Adelaide, South Australia 5005, Australia.


In pigs, uterine exposure to the constituents of semen is known to increase litter size but the underlying physiological mechanisms remain undefined. Studies in rodents and humans implicate immune modulating moieties in seminal plasma as likely candidates, acting through enhancing the receptivity of the female tract. In this study, the acute and longer term effects of seminal plasma on cytokine expression and leukocyte abundance in the pig endometrium during early pregnancy have been characterised. The reproductive tracts of gonadotrophin-primed pre-pubertal gilts treated with intrauterine infusions of either pooled seminal plasma or phosphate-buffered saline (PBS) were retrieved at 34 h, or on day 5 and day 9 after treatment. Seminal plasma elicited an endometrial inflammatory infiltrate comprised of predominantly macrophages and major histocompatibility complex class II+-activated macrophages and dendritic cells. The abundance of these cells was greatest at the pre-ovulatory (34 h) time-point and their increase relative to PBS-treated tissues was maintained until day 9 after seminal plasma treatment. Seminal plasma induced the expression of the cytokines, granulocyte macrophage colony-stimulating factor, interleukin-6 and monocyte chemoattractant protein-1, and the eicosanoid-synthesising enzyme cyclo-oxygenase-2. Expression was maximal 34 h after treatment but altered expression patterns as a consequence of seminal plasma induction persisted through early pregnancy. These changes were accompanied by altered dynamics in pre-implantation embryo development with an increase in the number of embryos and in their viability after seminal plasma treatment. Together, these findings implicate factors in seminal plasma in programming the trajectory of uterine cytokine expression and leukocyte trafficking during early pregnancy and in regulating pre-implantation embryo development in the pig.

Copyright 2004 Society for Reproduction and Fertility

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