Placental development during early pregnancy in sheep: effects of embryo origin on vascularization.
Utero-placental growth and vascular development are critical for pregnancy establishment that may be altered by various factors including assisted reproductive technologies (ART), nutrition, or others, leading to compromised pregnancy. We hypothesized that placental vascularization and expression of angiogenic factors are altered early in pregnancies after transfer of embryos created using selected ART methods. Pregnancies were achieved through natural mating (NAT), or transfer of embryos from NAT (NAT-ET), or IVF or in vitro activation (IVA). Placental tissues were collected on day 22 of pregnancy. In maternal caruncles (CAR), vascular cell proliferation was less (P<0.05) for IVA than other groups. Compared with NAT, density of blood vessels was less (P<0.05) for IVF and IVA in fetal membranes (FM) and for NAT-ET, IVF, and IVA in CAR. In FM, mRNA expression was decreased (P<0.01-0.08) in NAT-ET, IVF, and IVA compared with NAT for vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) and its receptor FLT1, placental growth factor (PGF), neuropilin 1 (NP1) and NP2, angiopoietin 1 (ANGPT1) and ANGPT2, endothelial nitric oxide synthase 3 (NOS3), hypoxia-inducible factor 1A (HIF1A), fibroblast growth factor 2 (FGF2), and its receptor FGFR2. In CAR, mRNA expression was decreased (P<0.01-0.05) in NAT-ET, IVF, and IVA compared with NAT for VEGF, FLT1, PGF, ANGPT1, and TEK. Decreased mRNA expression for 12 of 14 angiogenic factors across FM and CAR in NAT-ET, IVF, and IVA pregnancies was associated with reduced placental vascular development, which would lead to poor placental function and compromised fetal and placental growth and development.