Gene expression in bovine endometrial cells and blood-derived neutrophils stimulated by uterine secretions
Uterine epithelial cells (UEC) and migrated polymorphonuclear cells (PMN) play important roles in the uterine defence against microbial infection. The aims of the present study were to investigate i) whether undiluted uterine secretions modulate the expression of genes associated with the innate immune response in UEC and PMN in vitro, ii) whether these changes differ between the two cell populations and iii) whether uterine secretions from cows with subclinical endometritis produce a different response to those from unaffected cows. Therefore, undiluted uterine secretions, cytobrush and biopsy samples were collected from bovine uteri at a local abattoir. All cows had calved at least 3 months prior to sample collection. Subclinical endometritis was diagnosed by cytology (≥5% polymorphonuclear neutrophils) and histology. The uteri were thereby retrospectively categorised as endometritis-positive (E-pos; n = 14), if either the cytology or the histology results were positive, or endometritis-negative (E-neg; n = 17), if both diagnostics were negative. Cultured UEC responded to secretions from E-pos and E-neg cows with an increased gene expression of CXC ligand (CXCL) 8 and interleukin (IL) 6 compared to incubation with control medium alone. PMN expressed significantly higher mRNA levels of CXCL5, CXCL8 and IL1B in response to supernatant from UEC incubated with secretions from both groups (E-pos and E-neg) compared to those incubated with control medium alone. Gene expression of IL10 in uterine epithelial cells remained comparable to the control in cells exposed to E-pos secretions and was 3.6 times lower in those exposed to E-neg secretions. These results demonstrate that the expression of genes associated with the innate immune response in UEC and indirectly also PMN is affected by uterine secretions in vitro. Depending on the target gene, these changes differ between the two cell populations. UEC exposed to uterine secretions from cows without subclinical endometritis produce lower levels of IL10 compared to those exposed to secretions from affected cows or control medium alone. Therefore, the model established in this study can be used as a valuable tool to further understand the contributions of the two cell populations to the coordinated immune response in the uterus.