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Seminal plasma and male factor signalling in the female reproductive tract

Abstract

In mammals, insemination results in the transmission of seminal factors that act, in the female reproductive tract, to promote sperm survival, to “condition” the female immune response to tolerate the conceptus and to organise molecular and cellular changes in the endometrium to facilitate embryo development and implantation. These events are initiated when signalling agents, including transforming growth factor-β and other cytokines and prostaglandins secreted by seminal vesicle and prostate glands, interact with epithelial cells in the cervix and uterus to activate cytokine synthesis and to induce cellular and molecular changes resembling a classical inflammatory cascade. The consequences are the recruitment and activation of macrophages, granulocytes and dendritic cells, which have immune-regulatory and tissue-remodelling roles that culminate in improved endometrial receptivity to the implanting embryo. Cytokines elicited by seminal activation have embryotrophic properties and also contribute directly to the optimal development of the early embryo. This review summarises our current understanding of the physiology of responses to seminal plasma in the female reproductive tract and considers the evolutionary significance of seminal plasma in influencing female tissues to promote the success of pregnancy.

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Correspondence to Sarah A. Robertson.

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The author acknowledges the support of the NHMRC of Australia Fellowship and Program Grant schemes.

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Robertson, S.A. Seminal plasma and male factor signalling in the female reproductive tract. Cell Tissue Res 322, 43–52 (2005). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00441-005-1127-3

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Keywords

  • Semen
  • Seminal plasma
  • Leukocytes
  • Transforming growth factor-β
  • Cervix
  • Uterus
  • Embryo implantation
  • Human