Interferon-tau protects bovine endometrial epithelial cells against inflammatory injury by regulating the PI3K/AKT/β-catenin/FoxO1 signaling axis

Kangfeng Jiang, Jinyin Cai, Qianming Jiang, Juan J. Loor, Ganzhen Deng, Xiaobing Li, Jing Yang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Endometritis is one of the most common causes of infertility in dairy cows, and is histopathologically characterized by inflammation and damage of endometrial epithelium. Interferon-tau (IFN-τ) is a novel type I interferon secreted by ruminant trophoblast cells with low cytotoxicity even at high doses. Previous studies suggested that IFN-τ plays an important role in inflammation. However, the mechanisms whereby IFN-τ may modulate the inflammatory responses in the bovine endometrium are unknown. In the present study, primary bovine endometrial epithelial cells (BEEC) isolated from fresh and healthy uterine horns were used for in vitro studies. The integrity of BEEC was assessed by immunofluorescence staining for cytokeratin 18 (CK-18, a known epithelial marker). For the experiments, BEEC were stimulated with different concentrations of lipopolysaccharide (LPS; 0–20 µg/mL) for different times (0–24 h). Cell viability and apoptosis were assessed via CCK-8 and flow cytometry. In a preliminary study, we observed that compared with the control group without LPS, 10 µg/mL of LPS stimulation for 24 h induced apoptosis. In a subsequent study, 20 or 40 ng/mL of IFN-τ alleviated LPS-induced apoptosis. Relative to the LPS group, western blotting further revealed that IFN-τ inhibited the protein abundance of TLR4 and phosphorylated (p-) p65 (p-p65) and Bax/Bcl-2 ratio, suggesting that IFN-τ can protect BEEC against inflammatory injury. Furthermore, the protein abundance of p-phosphoinositide 3-kinase (p-PI3K), p-protein kinase B (p-AKT), p-glycogen synthase kinase-3β (p-GSK3β), β-catenin, and p-forkhead box O1 (p-FoxO1) was lower in the LPS group, whereas IFN-τ upregulated their abundance. The use of LY294002, a specific inhibitor of PI3K/AKT, attenuated the upregulation of p-PI3K, p-AKT p-GSK3β, β-catenin, and p-FoxO1 induced by IFN-τ, and also blocked the downregulation of TLR4, p-p65, and Bax/Bcl-2 ratio. This suggested that the inhibition of TLR4 signaling by IFN-τ was mediated by the PI3K/AKT pathway. Furthermore, compared with the LPS group, the β-catenin agonist SB216763 led to greater p-FoxO1 and lower p-p65 and cell apoptosis. In contrast, knockdown of β-catenin using small interfering RNA had the opposite effects. To explore the role of FoxO1 on the inhibition of TLR4 by IFN-τ, we employed LY294002 to inhibit the PI3K/AKT while FoxO1 was knocked down. Results revealed that the knockdown of FoxO1 blocked the upregulation of TLR4 and p-p65 induced by LY294002, and enhanced the inhibition of IFN-τ on TLR4, p-p65, and cell apoptosis. Overall, these findings confirmed that IFN-τ can protect endometrial epithelial cells against inflammatory injury via suppressing TLR4 activation through the regulation of the PI3K/AKT/β-catenin/FoxO1 axis. These represent new insights into the molecular mechanisms underlying the anti-inflammatory function of IFN-τ in BEEC, and also provide a theoretical basis for further studies on the in vivo application of IFN-τ to help prevent negative effects of endometritis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)555-572
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Dairy Science
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2024


  • cell injury
  • dairy cow
  • endometritis
  • interferon-tau

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Science
  • Genetics
  • Animal Science and Zoology


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