Alleviative effect of melatonin on the decrease of uterine receptivity caused by blood ammonia through ROS/NF-κB pathway in dairy cow

Ecotoxicol Environ Saf. 2022 Feb:231:113166. doi: 10.1016/j.ecoenv.2022.113166. Epub 2022 Jan 11.


High concentration of blood ammonia can affect the uterus receptivity and decrease fecundity in dairy cow. Melatonin can reduce reactive oxygen species (ROS) level and has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. However, it is not clear whether melatonin can alleviate ammonia-induced apoptosis of endometrial epithelial cell (EEC) and reduced uterus receptivity. The bovine EEC were treated with ammonium chloride and/or melatonin. Cell viability, apoptosis, oxidative stress and mitochondrial membrane potential were measured and the expression of apoptosis-related genes (p53, Cyt-c, Bax, Bcl-2, caspase-8, caspase-9 and caspase-3), uterus receptivity related genes (VEGF, LIF and EGF) and inflammatory factors (TLR-4, IL-6 and NF-κB) were detected. In addition, the expression of VEGF was detected after adding NF-κB inhibitor (40 μM) and IL-6 (1 ng/mL and 50 ng/mL). The results showed that ammonia significantly increased intracellular ROS level, mRNA and protein expression of Bax, p53, Cyt-c, caspase-9, caspase-8, caspase-3, TLR-4, NF-κB and IL-6, promoted cell apoptosis, while decreased mitochondrial membrane potential, the mRNA and protein expression of VEGF and EGF. Interestingly, melatonin significantly mitigated ammonia-induced changes. However, melatonin could not alleviate ammonia-induced changes of IL-6 and VEGF when NF-κB signal pathway was inhibited. The addition of IL-6 significantly reduced mRNA and protein expression of VEGF. In conclusion, ammonia induced EEC apoptosis through ROS production and activation of mitochondrial apoptosis pathway, and induced inflammatory response through TLR4/NF-κB/IL-6 pathway. Melatonin alleviated EEC apoptosis by inhibiting ROS pathway, and reduced IL-6 expression by inhibiting TLR-4/NF-κB signal pathway, which eventually improved VEGF expression and uterus receptivity in dairy cows.

Keywords: Ammonia; Apoptosis; Endometrial epithelial cells; Melatonin; Receptivity.

MeSH terms

  • Ammonia
  • Animals
  • Apoptosis
  • Cattle
  • Female
  • Melatonin* / pharmacology
  • NF-kappa B* / genetics
  • Reactive Oxygen Species
  • Uterus


  • NF-kappa B
  • Reactive Oxygen Species
  • Ammonia
  • Melatonin