The actions of leukemia inhibitory factor (LIF) via LIF receptor (LIFR) and its co-receptor, IL6 signal transducer (IL6ST), are implicated in uterine receptivity to conceptus implantation in a number of species including sheep. The present study determined the effects of the estrous cycle, pregnancy, progesterone (P4), and interferon tau (IFNT) on the expression of LIFR and IL6ST in the ovine uterus. LIFR mRNA and protein were localized to the endometrial luminal (LE) and superficial glandular epithelia (sGE), whereas IL6ST mRNA and protein were localized primarily in the middle to deep GE. Both LIFR and IL6ST mRNAs and protein were more abundant in pregnant than cyclic ewes and increased from days 10 to 20 of pregnancy. Treatment of ovariectomized ewes with P4 and/or infusion of ovine IFNT increased LIFR and IL6ST in endometrial LE/sGE and GE respectively. Co-expression of LIFR and IL6ST as well as phosphorylated STAT3 was observed only in the upper GE of the endometrium as well as in the conceptus trophectoderm on days 18 and 20. In mononuclear trophectoderm and GE cells, LIF elicited an increase in phosphorylated STAT3 and MAPK3/1 MAPK proteins. Collectively, these results suggest that LIFR and IL6ST are both stimulated by IFNT and regulated by P4 in a complex stage- and cell-specific manner, and support the hypothesis that LIF exerts effects on the endometrial GE as well as conceptus trophectoderm during early pregnancy in sheep. Thus, LIF and STAT3 may have biological roles in endometrial function and trophectoderm growth and differentiation.
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