During the period of maternal recognition of pregnancy (MRP) in the mare, the embryo needs to signal its presence to the endometrium to prevent regression of the corpus luteum and prepare for establishment of pregnancy. This is achieved by mechanical stimuli and release of various signaling molecules by the equine embryo while migrating through the uterus. We hypothesized that embryo’s signals induce changes in the endometrial gene expression in a highly cell type-specific manner. A spatiotemporal transcriptomics approach was applied combining laser capture microdissection and low-input-RNA sequencing of luminal and glandular epithelium (LE, GE), and stroma of biopsy samples collected from days 10–13 of pregnancy and the estrous cycle. Two comparisons were performed, samples derived from pregnancies with conceptuses ≥ 8 mm in diameter (comparison 1) and conceptuses ≤ 8 mm (comparison 2) versus samples from cyclic controls. The majority of gene expression changes was identified in LE and much lower numbers of differentially expressed genes (DEGs) in GE and stroma. While 1253 DEGs were found for LE in comparison 1, only 248 were found in comparison 2. Data mining mainly focused on DEGs in LE and revealed regulation of genes related to prostaglandin transport, metabolism, and signaling, as well as transcription factor families that could be involved in MRP. In comparison to other mammalian species, differences in regulation of genes involved in epithelial barrier formation and conceptus attachment and implantation reflected the unique features of equine reproduction at the time of MRP at the molecular level.
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