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Reproduction. 2008 Oct;136(4):471-80. doi: 10.1530/REP-07-0436. Epub 2008 Jul 9.

Novel immunocontraceptive targets in mammals: uterine secretions and the conceptus; a marsupial approach.

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Department of Zoology, The University of Melbourne, Parkville, Victoria 3010, Australia.


We report the first immunocontraceptive trial in mammals using a uterine-secreted protein, the marsupial shell coat protein 4 (CP4). The marsupial shell coat, which surrounds the conceptus for 60-80% of gestation, is secreted by the uterine epithelium. Following immunization against glutathione S-transferase (GST)-CP4, the fertility of female common brushtail possums (n=6) was significantly reduced (P=0.000), and this reduction in fertility was positively correlated with the maximum GST-CP4 humoral immune response (P=0.025). Ultrastructural examination of the reproductive tract indicated that the cell-mediated immune response against GST-CP4 targeted the shell coat, the shell-free conceptus and the uterine glandular epithelium, thus preventing normal conceptus development and uterine secretion of shell coat proteins and nutrients. These results show that uterine-secreted proteins are promising immunocontraceptive targets, especially in pest mammal species, e.g. possum, rabbit and horse, that have uterine-secreted additions to embryonic coats, or that have late implantation requiring uterine nutrient provisioning from secretions.

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