Uterine eosinophils and reproductive performance in interleukin 5-deficient mice

S. A. Robertson*, V. J. Mau, I. G. Young, K. I. Matthaei

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

62 Citations (Scopus)


Interleukin 5 is expressed in type 2 T lymphocytes and has a key role in driving the differentiation, recruitment and activation of eosinophils. Mice with a null mutation in the interleukin 5 gene (IL-5 -/- mice) have altered type 2 immune responses and severely depleted eosinophil populations. In the present study, the effect of interleukin 5 deficiency on the abundant population of eosinophils present in the female reproductive tract was investigated, and the reproductive performance in C57B1/6 IL-5 -/- mice was measured. Endometrial eosinophils, detected on the basis of their endogenous peroxidase activity, were reduced in number by four-sevenfold during the oestrous cycle and in early pregnancy in IL-5-/-mice. Eosinophils present in the cervix and decidual tissues at the time of parturition were similarly diminished. The temporal fluctuations in eosinophil recruitment and localization within these tissues were otherwise unchanged, indicating that interleukin 5 is not a necessary chemotactic agent in the female reproductive tract. Oestrous cycles were moderately greater in duration in IL-5 -/- mice (mean ± SD = 5.6 ± 1.0 days in IL-5 -/- mice versus 5.0 ± 0.8 days in IL-5 +/+ mice), owing to an extended period in oestrus (2.7 ± 0.9 days per cycle in IL-5 -/- mice versus 1.8 ± 0.7 in IL-5 +/+ mice). The interval between placing females with males and the finding of copulatory plugs was reduced significantly in interleukin 5-deficient mice. Implantation rates and subsequent fetal development were comparable in IL-5 -/- and IL-5 +/+ mice, irrespective of whether pregnancies were sired by syngeneic (C57B1/6) or allogeneic (CBA or Balb/c) males, apart from a 10% increase in placental size and a 6.5% decrease in placental:fetal ratio seen on day 17 in pregnancies sired by CBA males. Parturition and post-partum uterine repair were not compromised in interleukin 5-deficient mice, as judged by the length of gestation, and the outcomes of pregnancies initiated at post-partum oestrus. The birth weights and growth trajectories of pups were significantly influenced by interleukin 5 status, with small but significant increases in the weights of IL-5 -/- pups, particularly C57B1/6 and CBA F1 animals, remaining evident until adulthood. These data are consistent with the view that eosinophils have a role in endometrial tissue remodelling associated with the oestrous cycle, but indicate that the events of pregnancy and parturition proceed quite normally in the absence of maternal and fetal interleukin 5. However, strain-dependent effects of interleukin 5 deficiency on placental growth and function and subsequent weight gain in the newborn indicate that this cytokine may act through the maternal or fetal immune axis to exert subtle influences on reproductive outcome.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)423-432
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Reproduction and Fertility
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2000
Externally publishedYes


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