Inflammatory Changes and Composition of Collagen during Cervical Ripening in Cows

Animals (Basel). 2022 Oct 1;12(19):2646. doi: 10.3390/ani12192646.


Dystocia and stillbirths in cows pose a high risk of loss of both dams and fetuses, thereby resulting in high economic losses. One of the causes of these problems is birth canal abnormalities. Thus, to prevent these occurrences, it is necessary to understand the mechanisms underlying cervical ripening. Although physiological inflammatory responses and changes in collagen composition have been reported in humans and mice, related information is scarce for cows. We observed inflammatory changes and changes in the collagen composition in the cervix from late pregnancy to parturition to clarify some of the physiological changes associated with cervical ripening during normal calving in cows. Cervical mucus and tissue samples were collected from 41 Japanese Black cows at 200, 230, and 260 days of gestation and at 7-day intervals thereafter until parturition. The percentage of polymorphonuclear neutrophils (PMN%) in the mucus was calculated, and interleukin (IL)-8 concentration was determined by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay. Blood samples were collected from the jugular vein, and leukocyte counts were determined. Picrosirius red-stained cervical tissue specimens were observed under a polarizing microscope, and the percentage of type I and type III collagen areas in the cervical tissue were calculated. The PMN% in cervical mucus was lowest at 200 days gestation (12−13 weeks before delivery), significantly increased 5 weeks before (21.7 ± 0.04), and was highest 1 week before calving (50.9 ± 0.04). IL-8 levels were increased at 295 days compared with those at 200 days of pregnancy (p < 0.05). No significant changes were observed in the white blood cell counts. The percentage of type I collagen in the cervical tissue reached a maximum (91.4 ± 0.02%) on day 200, significantly decreased after 274 days (3 weeks before calving), and continued to decrease thereafter until the week of parturition. There was no significant change in type III collagen levels. The results suggest that cervical ripening progresses when PMNs begin to infiltrate the cervix at around 260 days of gestation (5−4 weeks before parturition), IL-8, which increases at the end of pregnancy, mobilizes PMNs, and enhances inflammation, and that type I collagen changes are useful as an indicator of cervical ripening.

Keywords: cervical ripening; cows; interleukin-8; mucus; picrosirius red staining; polymorphonuclear neutrophils; type I collagen.