Physiological and cellular requirements for successful elongation of the preimplantation conceptus and the implications for fertility in lactating dairy cows
Elongation of the preimplantation conceptus is a prerequisite for maternal recognition of pregnancy and implantation in ruminants. Failures in this phase of development likely contribute for the subfertility of lactating dairy cows. This review will discuss our current understanding of the physiological and cellular requirements for successful elongation of the preimplantation conceptus and their potential deficiency in subfertile lactating dairy cows. Major requirements include the priming of the endometrium by ovarian steroids, reprogramming of trophectoderm cells at the onset of elongation, and intensification of the crosstalk between elongating conceptus and endometrium. Conceptus elongation and survival in dairy cows does not seem to be affected by lactation per se but seem to be altered in subgroups of cows with endocrine, metabolic and nutritional imbalances or deficiencies. These subgroups of cows include those suffering diseases postpartum, anovular cows enrolled in synchronization programs, and cows with low concentration of circulating steroids and IGF1. Success of conceptus elongation starts long before breeding and entails optimization of health and nutrition programs, especially during the transition period, and might be extended to the supplementation of endocrine and nutritional shortages at the time of breeding. Genetic selection will eventually become more important as researchers unravel the molecular control of reproduction and develop new fertility traits focused on pregnancy survival.
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