The influences of cycle stage and pregnancy upon cell glycosylation in the endometrium of the mare

Carolyn J.P. Jones, John D. Aplin, W. R.(Twink) Allen, Sandra Wilsher

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From Day 6.5–7 post-conception until its loss around Day 22, the equine embryo is enclosed in a mucinous capsule that prevents direct intercellular interaction between the trophectoderm and uterine epithelium. The embryo is, however, bathed in glycoprotein-rich secretions. In this study, lectin histochemistry was used to characterise the distribution and glycan composition of uterine glycoproteins destined for secretion, and to ascertain the local effect of an embryo on glycosylation in the endometrium. Endometrial biopsies were taken from mares in estrus, on Days 5, 8, 12 and 15 of diestrus, and on Days 12 and 15 of pregnancy and processed for lectin histochemistry. During estrus, lumenal epithelial cells were as truncated pyramids and mainly non-ciliated with glycosylated granules in the cytoplasm. Occasional ciliated cells contained few granules. Five days post-ovulation, non-ciliated cells of the lumenal epithelium were taller, and had accumulated many highly glycosylated apical granules. By Days 12 and 15 post-ovulation these cells were more cuboidal and some showed fewer secretory granules. In marked contrast, by Days 12 and 15 of pregnancy, the ciliated cells were distended, with numerous granules but non-ciliated cells had only a few in the apical cytoplasm. Glycosylation changed dramatically in pregnancy in the luminal and superficial gland epithelium, with fewer fucosylated termini, more N-acetyl galactosamine residues, together with an overall reduction in sialic acid and several other sugar structures. Glycosylation in ciliated cells on Days 12 and 15 of pregnancy showed a striking similarity to that of the blastocyst capsule. The data strongly suggests that glycoprotein production by luminal epithelial cells is influenced by the presence of a conceptus. We speculate that, as well as providing nourishment for the developing embryo, epithelial secretory glycoproteins may contribute components to the capsule, which develops only partially in embryos cultured in vitro.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)92-99
Number of pages8
Early online date19 May 2020
Publication statusPublished - 15 Sept 2020


  • capsule
  • Estrus cycle
  • glycosylation
  • lectins
  • pregnancy


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