Interaction between equine semen and the endometrium: The inflammatory response to semen

M. H.T. Troedsson, K. Loset, A. M. Alghamdi, B. Dahms, B. G. Crabo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

137 Scopus citations


Insemination of mares with bacteria-free equine spermatozoa results in an influx of polymorphonuclear neutrophils (PMNs) into the uterine lumen. In vitro studies have demonstrated that equine spermatozoa activate complement, resulting in cleavage of factors C5a and C3b. Since uterine secretion is rich in complement, it is likely that an interaction between spermatozoa and uterine secretion results in C5a-mediated chemotaxis and migration of PMNs into the uterine lumen. Once in the uterine lumen, the PMNs phagocytize bacteria and spermatozoa, which is an important part of sperm elimination from the reproductive tract. It is not clear how the spermatozoa are opsonized, or if phagocytosis of equine spermatozoa is a selective or non-selective process. Breeding-induced endometritis appears to be both up and down regulated by seminal components. A modulatory role on the inflammation has been suggested for equine seminal plasma. Seminal plasma suppressed complement activation, PMN-chemotaxis and phagocytosis in vitro. Preliminary in vivo experiments also support a suppressive role of seminal plasma in breeding-induced endometritis. The duration but not the magnitude of the PMN-influx into the uterine lumen was shortened when seminal plasma was included in an insemination dose. The presence of PMNs in the uterus affects the motion characteristics of spermatozoa in vitro. Both progressive motility and mean path velocity were impaired when spermatozoa were incubated in uterine secretion from mares with ongoing breeding-induced endometritis. The binding of spermatozoa to PMNs was prominent in all samples collected from mares with an ongoing endometritis. The motility remained impaired, but the binding of the spermatozoa to PMNs was reduced when the spermatozoa were incubated in uterine secretion in the presence of seminal plasma. Preliminary characterization of the immune-suppressive component in seminal plasma suggests that it is one or more molecule(s) with a molecular weight between 50 and 100 kDa, partially inactivated by charcoal stripping and partially heat-inactivated at 95°C for 45 min.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)273-278
Number of pages6
JournalAnimal Reproduction Science
Issue number3-4
StatePublished - Dec 3 2001

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The research projects referred to in this article were supported by grants from the Minnesota Equine Research Center and the Minnesota Racing Commission with contributions from private donors, and the American Quarter Horse Association.


  • Endometritis
  • Equine
  • Immunology
  • Inflammation
  • Semen
  • Uterine defense
  • Uterus

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Animals
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Endocrinology


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