Alterations of Circulating Biomarkers During Late Term Pregnancy Complications in the Horse Part II: Steroid Hormones and Alpha-Fetoprotein

Carleigh E. Fedorka, Barry A. Ball, Michelle A.A. Wynn, Meghan E. McCormick, Kirsten E. Scoggin, Alejandro Esteller-Vico, Thomas E. Curry, Laura A. Kennedy, Edward L. Squires, Mats H.T. Troedsson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Preterm labor and/or abortion causes considerable economic impact on the equine industry. Unfortunately, few experimental models exist for the induction of various pregnancy-related complications, and therefore extrapolations are made from the experimental model for ascending placentits, although inferences may be minimal. Certain steroid hormones (progestogens, estrogens) and fetal proteins (alpha-fetoprotein; AFP) might improve the diagnostics for abnormal pregnancy, but the utility of these markers in the field is unknown. To assess this, thoroughbred mares (n = 702) were bled weekly beginning in December 2013 until parturition/abortion. Following parturition, fetal membranes were assessed histopathologically and classified as either ascending placentitis (n = 6), focal mucoid placentitis (n = 6), idiopathic abortion (n = 6) or no disease (n = 20). Weekly serum samples were analyzed for concentrations of progesterone, estradiol-17β, and AFP. Samples were analyzed retrospectively from the week of parturition/abortion in addition to the preceding four weeks. For both ascending and focal mucoid placentitis, a significant increase in progesterone and AFP was noted, alongside a significant decrease in estradiol-17β and the ratio of estradiol-17β to progesterone in comparison to controls. In contrast, idiopathic abortions experienced a decrease in progesterone concentrations alongside an increase in AFP, and this was only noted in the week preceding parturition/abortion. In conclusion, spontaneous placental infection in the horse altered both endocrine and feto-secretory markers in maternal circulation, while minimal changes were noted preceding noninfectious idiopathic abortion. Additionally, this is the first study to report an alteration in steroid hormones and AFP during the disease process of focal mucoid placentitis, the etiology of which includes Nocardioform placentitis.

Original languageEnglish
Article number103395
JournalJournal of Equine Veterinary Science
StatePublished - Apr 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors would like to thank the numerous veterinarians, farm managers, office staff, and clinics which assisted in the collection of these samples. The authors thank Dr. Igor Canisso for helpful comments on the design of this study. This study was funded by the Kentucky Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association and the Albert G. Clay Research Endowment at the University of Kentucky along with considerable industry support.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021


  • AFP
  • Biomarker
  • Estradiol-17B
  • Placentitis
  • Progesterone

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Equine


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