Autoimmunization of Ewes Against Pregnancy-associated Glycoproteins Does Not Interfere with the Establishment and Maintenance of Pregnancy
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Pregnancy-associated glycoproteins (PAGs) are a large grouping of placental proteins that belong to the aspartic peptidase gene family. Although useful to detect pregnancy in ruminant species, the function of these molecules is unclear. Several PAGs expressed by trophoblast binucleate cells can enter the maternal circulation, suggesting that they could have a systemic role in altering maternal physiology. The objective of this work was to examine whether these circulating placental antigens were important in pregnancy by actively immunizing ewes against them. PAGs were purified by pepstatin-affinity chromatography and conjugated to the immunogenic protein, keyhole limpet hemocyanin (KLH). Ewes were immunized with PAG-KLH conjugate (n522) or with KLH alone (n59), and bred to intact rams. Blood samples, collected on Day 0 (day of estrus), Day 10, Days 15 to 25 and weekly throughout pregnancy, were analyzed for PAG by an ELISA. On Day 30, pregnancy was confirmed by ultrasound. Ewes immunized against PAG-KLH produced a range of reactive anti-PAG titers, whereas all immunized ewes had high anti-KLH immunoreactivity. PAGs became detectable in the anti-KLH (control) ewes at Day 21.662.2 of pregnancy. Those ewes immunized against PAGs (n57), that had very low immunoreactivity toward PAGs, had measurable PAG by Day 22.961.3, and their PAG serum profiles throughout pregnancy did not differ from the controls. Those exhibiting moderate to high anti-PAG immunoreactivity (n515), had significantly lower PAG concentrations than controls, with antigen not becoming detectable until Day 48.1615.6. The decrease in circulating PAG in the immunized animals did not correlate with changes in pregnancy rates, lamb number or lamb birth weight. These results suggest that while PAGs may play a role in maintaining pregnancy, their major contribution is likely to be at the fetal-maternal interface. Their actions at extra-placental sites are presumably of more secondary importance.
Animal, 3(6), 850-857, 2009.