Significance of serum early pregnancy factor concentrations during pregnancy and embryonic development in Sminthopsis macroura (Spencer) (Marsupialia: Dasyuridae)
Marsupial pregnancy differs from that in eutherians in duration, placentation and hormonal profile so much so that maternal recognition of pregnancy may not occur in polyovular marsupials. However, a comparison of gravid and non-gravid uteri reveals differences indicative of histological and physiological adaptations to pregnancy. In the present study, the hypothesis that embryo-maternal signalling occurs in polyovular marsupials was tested by examining serum from non-pregnant and pregnant Sminthopsis macroura for the presence of early pregnancy factor (EPF), a serum protein secreted by the ovary in response to the presence of a newly fertilized egg in the oviduct. EPF is detectable in the serum of pregnant, but not in non-pregnant, females in all eutherians studied to date. In the present study, EPF was detected in S. macroura serum by the rosette inhibition test during the first 9 days of the 10.7 day gestation period in this marsupial. However, EPF was not detected on day 10, just before parturition, or in non-pregnant or preovulatory animals. Immunohistochemical analysis of ovaries from gravid and non-gravid animals demonstrates that EPF is found in the capillaries, interstitial spaces and secretory cells of the corpus luteum. It is concluded that the spatiotemporal pattern of EPF activity described strongly indicates that maternal recognition of pregnancy in marsupials is mediated, at least in part, by EPF. Because the endocrinological milieu is the same in pregnant and non-pregnant marsupials, the possibility of using marsupials as an experimental system for studying EPF function unconfounded by hormonal effects is presented.
Cruz, Y.P., L. Selwood, H. Morton, and A.C. Cavanagh. 2001. "Significance of serum early pregnancy factor concentrations during pregnancy and embryonic development in Sminthopsis macroura (Spencer) (Marsupialia: Dasyuridae)." Reproduction 121(6): 933-939.