Lipid receptor fosters infection of the uterus in bitches

Foamy epithelial cells of the uterus aggregate lipids via a receptor and support pregnancy in bitches. The receptor equally attracts bacteria, which may cause an infection (green/middle: foamy cells). (Photo: Cordula Gabriel)

foamy cells  1

In the female dog, cells of the uterus can accumulate lipid droplets to form so-called foamy epithelial cells during late metoestrus. These cells produce a hormone that is involved in the implantation of the embryo in the uterus. A team of researchers from the Institute of Anatomy, Histology and Embryology at Vetmeduni Vienna has now shown for the first time that the factor assisting the cells in lipid accumulation also facilitates the binding of bacteria to the epithelial cells. Two studies on this subject were published in the journals Anatomia, Histologia, Embryologia and Theriogenology.

The epithelial cells form the inner protective layer of the uterine membrane and are responsible for the processes of reception and transduction in cell signalling. This important layer of cells changes in dogs in course of the oestrous cycle. During the receptive phase, the epithelial cells start to accumulate fatty substances known as lipids. These lipid accumulations give the cells a foamy appearance, which is why they are then called foamy epithelial cells.

Foamy epithelial cells prepare uterus for possible pregnancy

 “The foamy epithelial cells, like other lipid-accumulating cells, produce a hormone-like protein called leptin,” explains study director Cordula Gabriel from the Institute for Anatomy, Histology and Embryology at the Vetmeduni Vienna. “Leptin has a role in the implantation of the embryo and the formation of a functional placenta.” The lipid accumulations could also have a role in nourishing the embryo. The formation of foamy epithelial cells thus appears to be of importance for a successful pregnancy in dogs.

Lipid receptors attract bacteria

In their study, Gabriel and her team discovered another possible mechanism to explain how the epithelial cells accumulate lipids. The cells contain a specialised lipid receptor, known as Scavenger Receptor B1, in their membrane. Scavenger receptors bind lipid-like compounds from the blood, which can then be absorbed by the cell.

Gabriel also describes for the first time how pathogens, such as bacteria, can use this receptor and cause a serious inflammation of the uterus. She suspects that pyometra, a potentially fatal purulent inflammation of the uterus, is caused by bacteria that bind to the receptor on the foamy epithelial cells.

Read the press release 2 "Lipid receptor fosters infection of the uterus in bitches" for further information. 2

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