Uterine Environment and Breed Effects on Erythropoiesis and Liver Protein Secretion in Late Embryonic and Early Fetal Swine1

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In this study we investigated erythropoiesis and fetal liver protein secretion during late embryonic (Day 24 and Day 30) and early fetal (Day 40) development in pigs from domestic white crossbred (WC) gilts with a normal (intact; INT) or crowded (unilateral hysterectomized/ovariectomized; UHO) uterine environment, or from prolific Chinese Meishan (MS) gilts. Increased fetal weight, fetal liver weight, placental weight, total red blood cells, hematocrit, blood hemoglobin content, and maternal plasma erythropoietin (EPO) levels were observed as gestation advanced. Cultured fetal liver secretion of transferrin and a protein of Mr 12500 and pI 7.5 also increased as gestation advanced. Fetal plasma EPO declined between Day 30 and Day 40. Differential counts of circulating erythroid precursors revealed a decline in basophilic erythroblasts and polychromatic erythroblasts between Day 24 and Day 40, an increase in orthochromatic erythroblasts on Day 30 followed by a drop on Day 40, and an increase in the percentage of reticulocytes/ erythrocytes from < 1.0% to approximately 90% of circulating red blood cells between Day 24 and Day 40. Differences among the treatment groups included a lower fetal survival percentage in UHO (vs. INT or MS) on Day 40, and higher maternal hematocrits, fetal weights, fetal hematocrits, fetal EPO levels, and liver transferrin secretion in WC vs. MS pigs. MS pigs had a lower percentage of polychromatic erythroblasts overall and a higher percentage of orthochromatic erythroblasts on Day 24 followed by a higher percentage of erythrocytes on Day 40 than WC pigs, suggesting a more mature erythron (circulating red blood cells plus erythropoietic tissue) in the MS pigs. Covariate analysis indicated that MS had larger placentae per unit of body weight than did WC. Conclusions were that 1) Days 24-40 of gestation is a critical time for fetal erythropoiesis in pigs as well as survival in a crowded uterine environment, 2) the MS breed may differ in the development of the fetal erythropoietic system because of altered fetal or uterine physiology, and 3) the UHO procedure did not significantly affect erythropoiesis in the fetuses studied but did alter fetal survival and the relationship between fetal weight and both hematocrit and hemoglobin on Day 40.

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