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Toll-like receptor and antimicrobial peptide expression in the bovine endometrium

Darren Davies1, Kieran G Meade2, Shan Herath1, P David Eckersall3, Deyarina Gonzalez4, John O White4, R Steven Conlan4, Cliona O'Farrelly2 and I Martin Sheldon4*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Veterinary Clinical Sciences, Royal Veterinary College, Royal College Street, London, NW1 0TU, UK

2 Comparative Immunology Group, School of Biochemistry and Immunology, Trinity College Dublin, Dublin, Ireland

3 Institute of Comparative Medicine, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, University of Glasgow, Bearsden Rd, Glasgow, G61 1QH, UK

4 Institute of Life Science, School of Medicine, Swansea University, Swansea, SA2 8PP, UK

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Reproductive Biology and Endocrinology 2008, 6:53  doi:10.1186/1477-7827-6-53

Published: 18 November 2008



The endometrium is commonly infected with bacteria leading to severe disease of the uterus in cattle and humans. The endometrial epithelium is the first line of defence for this mucosal surface against bacteria and Toll-like receptors (TLRs) are a critical component of the innate immune system for detection of pathogen associated molecular patterns (PAMPs). Antimicrobial peptides, acute phase proteins and Mucin-1 (MUC-1) also provide non-specific defences against microbes on mucosal surfaces. The present study examined the expression of innate immune defences in the bovine endometrium and tested the hypothesis that endometrial epithelial cells express functional receptors of the TLR family and the non-specific effector molecules for defence against bacteria.


Bovine endometrial tissue and purified populations of primary epithelial and stromal cells were examined using RT-PCR for gene expression of TLRs, antimicrobial peptides and MUC-1. Functional responses were tested by evaluating the secretion of prostaglandin E2 and acute phase proteins when cells were treated with bacterial PAMPs such as bacterial lipopolysaccharide (LPS) and lipoproteins.


The endometrium expressed TLRs 1 to 10, whilst purified populations of epithelial cells expressed TLRs 1 to 7 and 9, and stromal cells expressed TLRs 1 to 4, 6, 7, 9 and 10. The TLRs appear to be functional as epithelial cells secreted prostaglandin E2 in response to bacterial PAMPs. In addition, the epithelial cells expressed antimicrobial peptides, such as Tracheal and Lingual Antimicrobial Peptides (TAP and LAP) and MUC-1, which were upregulated when the cells were treated with LPS. However, the epithelial cells did not express appreciable amounts of the acute phase proteins haptoglobin or serum amyloid A.


Epithelial cells have an essential role in the orchestration of innate immune defence of the bovine endometrium and are likely to be the key to prevention of endometrial infection with bacteria.