Oviductal molecules have the potential to improve the reproductive biotechnologies. In camelids, knowledge and assessment of the oviductal environment are necessary to successfully develop species-specific reproductive technologies, especially because of the camelids reproductive particularities. Among the oviductal factors, the matrix metalloproteinases/tissue inhibitor of matrix metalloproteinases system (MMPs/TIMPs) should be investigated more thoroughly due to their participation in reproductive processes. Consequently, the current study assayed gene and protein expression of MMPs throughout the llama oviduct. MMPs zymogen and active forms in the oviductal fluid were also characterized. MMP2 and MMP9 transcripts were detected in ampulla, isthmus, uterotubal junction and papilla, being MMP2 and MMP9 2.15 and 1.10 folds higher in papilla than in ampulla, respectively. In addition, differences in immunolocalization of MMP2 and MMP9 between the epithelial mucosa layers of the oviductal segments were observed. The presence of MMPs in the epithelium suggests their secretion into the oviductal lumen. Coincidently, bands of 62 and 94 kDa, corresponding to MMP2 and MMP9 were detected by zymography in the oviductal fluid. Treatment with an exogenous activator (APMA) suggests that they are present as proMMPs. TIMP2 and TIMP1, the specific inhibitors of MMP2 and MMP9, respectively, were expres sed in each oviductal segment, indicating a well-regulated control of MMP proteolytic activity in the oviduct. These findings prove that the llama oviduct produces and secretes MMPs into the oviductal lumen, suggesting that these enzymes may have an unknown role in the preparation of the oviductal environment for gametes, fertilization and early embryo development in camelids.
KEY WORDS: Oviduct; Llama; MMPs; TIMPs; Gene expression levels.