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J Immunol. 2012 May 1;188(9):4181-7. doi: 10.4049/jimmunol.1103509. Epub 2012 Apr 4.

IL-22 is expressed by the invasive trophoblast of the equine (Equus caballus) chorionic girdle.

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Baker Institute for Animal Health, College of Veterinary Medicine, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853, USA.


The invasive trophoblast cells of the equine placenta migrate into the endometrium to form endometrial cups, dense accumulations of trophoblast cells that produce equine chorionic gonadotropin between days 40 and 120 of normal pregnancy. The mechanisms by which the trophoblast cells invade the endometrium while evading maternal immune destruction are poorly defined. A gene expression microarray analysis performed on placental tissues obtained at day 34 of gestation revealed a >900-fold upregulation of mRNA encoding the cytokine IL-22 in chorionic girdle relative to noninvasive chorion. Quantitative RT-PCR assays were used to verify high expression of IL-22 in chorionic girdle. Additional quantitative RT-PCR analysis showed a striking increase in IL-22 mRNA expression in chorionic girdle from days 32 to 35 and an absence of IL-22 expression in other conceptus tissues. Bioinformatic analysis and cDNA sequencing confirmed the predicted length of horse IL-22, which carries a 3' extension absent in IL-22 genes of humans and mice, but present in the cow and pig. Our discovery of IL-22 in the chorionic girdle is a novel finding, as this cytokine has been previously reported in immune cells only. IL-22 has immunoregulatory functions, with primary action on epithelial cells. mRNA of IL-22R1 was detected in pregnant endometrium at levels similar to other equine epithelia. Based upon these findings, we hypothesize that IL-22 cytokine produced by the chorionic girdle binds IL-22R1 on endometrium, serving as a mechanism of fetal-maternal communication by modulating endometrial responses to trophoblast invasion.

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