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Theriogenology. 2016 Nov;86(8):2040-53. doi: 10.1016/j.theriogenology.2016.06.022. Epub 2016 Jul 5.

Increased mRNA expression of selected antimicrobial peptides around ovulation and during inflammatory processes in the bovine endometrium postpartum.

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Department of Veterinary Medicine, Institute of Veterinary Biochemistry, Freie Universität Berlin, Berlin, Germany.
Institute for the Reproduction of Farm Animals (IFN), Bernau, Germany.
Department of Veterinary Medicine, Institute of Veterinary Biochemistry, Freie Universität Berlin, Berlin, Germany. Electronic address:


In the uterus, the first pathogen confrontations take place at the luminal endometrial epithelium. Therefore, it is required that these cells have the potential to recognize and respond to a bacterial infection. Antimicrobial peptides (AMP), part of the innate immune system in addition to cytokines, are principal effector molecules of mucosal immunity against pathogens. One important family of AMP that can permeabilize bacterial membranes is the beta-defensin (DEFB) family, which includes the following members: DEFB1, DEFB4A, and DEFB5, lingual AMP, and tracheal AMP. The bactericidal/permeability-increasing protein is also a cationic AMP that results in the death of bacteria. Another AMP family is the S100 calcium-binding protein (S100A) family including the following members: S100A8, S100A9, S100A11, and S100A12. These AMP exert their antimicrobial action through chelation of several ions. The aim of the present study was to evaluate mRNA expression patterns of selected AMP in bovine endometrial cells collected (1) at different stages of the estrous cycle (postovulatory, early-to-mid luteal, late luteal, and pre-ovulatory phase); (2) during the puerperium depending on uterine health status (healthy, subclinical, or clinical endometritis) starting on Day 24 to 30 postpartum for 3 weeks on a weekly basis; and (3) in vitro after co-culturing with Bacillus pumilus at three different multiplicities of infection (MOI 1, 5, and 10) up to 6 hours. The results reported that the mRNA expression of all candidate AMP, except DEFB1, S100A8, and S100A9, was estrous cycle dependent. In particular, around the time of ovulation, the transcription level of most AMP was higher (P < 0.05) compared with the luteal phase. Almost all candidate AMP mRNA expression was dependent on uterine health status, with a higher transcription level (P < 0.05) in inflamed endometrial tissues, especially during the late stage of the puerperium (Day 45-51 postpartum). Members of the DEFB family were nearly unaffected in their mRNA expression in primary endometrial cells co-incubated with B. pumilus. However, S100A8 and S100A9 mRNA contents were higher after 4 and 6 hours of co-incubation with B. pumilus compared with untreated controls. In conclusion, higher mRNA expression of the candidate AMP around ovulation or in inflamed endometrial tissue during the puerperium suggests their crucial role in uterine innate immunity in the defense against invading bacteria.


Antimicrobial peptides; Bacillus pumilus; Cow; Endometrial epithelial cells; Endometritis; Estrous cycle

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