Seminal Plasma Triggers the Differential Expression of the Glucocorticoid Receptor (NR3C1/GR) in the Rabbit Reproductive Tract

Mateo Ruiz-Conca, Jaume Gardela, Amaia Jauregi-Miguel, Cristina A. Martinez, Heriberto Rodriguez-Martinez, Manel Lopez-Bejar, Manuel Alvarez-Rodriguez*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review


Simple Summary

Glucocorticoids are steroid hormones modulating different functions in mammals, including reproduction, that act through the glucocorticoid receptor, encoded by the gene called NR3C1. Here, we describe how the expression levels of the glucocorticoid receptor change along the different compartments of the female rabbit internal reproductive tract 20 h after insemination with sperm-free seminal plasma or natural mating (whole semen) (Experiment 1) and how these levels change at 10, 24, 36, 68, and 72 h post-mating, during specific stages over time, i.e., ovulation, fertilization and the interval of early embryo development to the morula stage occurs (Experiment 2). NR3C1-upregulation was found in the infundibulum at 20 h after all treatments, especially after sperm-free seminal plasma infusion compared to mating (Experiment 1). In Experiment 2, the receptor gene expression levels increased in a spatio-temporal sequence, corresponding to the assumed location of the rabbit embryos (particularly morulae) in the oviductal various segments and timepoints (particularly 72 h), compared to down-expression at uterine regions. We conclude that NR3C1 may play a relevant role in the rabbit female reproductive tract.

Rabbits are interesting as research animal models for reproduction, due to their condition of species of induced ovulation, with the release of endogenous gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) due to coitus. Glucocorticoid (GC) signaling, crucial for physiological homeostasis, is mediated through a yet unclear mechanism, by the GC receptor (NR3C1/GR). After mating, the female reproductive tract undergoes dynamic modifications, triggered by gene transcription, a pre-amble for fertilization and pregnancy. This study tested the hypothesis that when ovulation is induced, the expression of NR3C1 is influenced by sperm-free seminal plasma (SP), similarly to after mating (whole semen), along the different segments of the internal reproductive tract of female rabbits. Semen (mating) was compared to vaginal infusion of sperm-free SP (Experiment 1), and changes over time were also evaluated, i.e., 10, 24, 36, 68, and 72 h post-mating, corresponding to specific stages, i.e., ovulation, fertilization, and the interval of early embryo development up to the morula stage (Experiment 2). All does were treated with GnRH to induce ovulation. Samples were retrieved from seven segments of the reproductive tract (from the cervix to infundibulum), at 20 h post-mating or sperm-free SP infusion (Experiment 1) or at 10, 24, 36, 68, and 72 h post-mating (Experiment 2). Gene expression of NR3C1 was analyzed by qPCR. Results showed an increase in NR3C1 expression in the infundibulum compared to the other anatomical regions in the absence of spermatozoa when sperm-free SP infusion was performed (Experiment 1). Moreover, during the embryo transport through the oviduct, the distal isthmus was time-course upregulated, especially at 72 h, when morulae are retained in this anatomical region, while it was downregulated in the distal uterus at 68 h (Experiment 2). The overall results suggest that NR3C1, the GC receptor gene, assessed in the reproductive tract of does for the first time, shows differential expression changes during the interval of oviductal and uterine embryo transport that may imply a relevant role of the GC action, not only close to the site of ovulation and fertilization, but also in the endometrium.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2158
Number of pages17
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2020


  • glucocorticoid receptor
  • gene expression
  • RT-qPCR
  • seminal plasma
  • female genital tract
  • rabbit


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