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CM O'Sullivan, SL Rancourt, SY Liu and DE Rancourt

Before implantation the blastocyst is maintained within a proteinaceous coat, the zona pellucida, which prevents polyspermy and ectopic pregnancy. An extracellular trypsin-like activity, which is necessary for hatching from the zona pellucida in vitro, is localized to the abembryonic pole of the blastocyst. Upon hatching, the extracellular matrix-degrading proteinases urokinase plasminogen activator (uPA) and matrix metalloproteinase 9 (MMP-9) are thought to promote blastocyst invasion. However, gene disruption experiments have demonstrated that uPA and MMP-9 are dispensable and, thus, that other key enzymes are involved in implantation. In this study, a novel implantation serine proteinase (ISP1) gene, which is distantly related to haematopoietic tryptases and represents a novel branch of the S1 proteinase family, was cloned. ISP1 is expressed throughout morulae and blastocysts during hatching and outgrowth. Abrogation of ISP1 mRNA accumulation using antisense oligodeoxynucleotides disrupts blastocyst hatching and outgrowth in vitro. The results of this study indicate that the ISP1 gene probably encodes the long sought after 'hatching enzyme' that is localized to the abembryonic pole during hatching in vitro. ISP1 is the earliest embryo-specific proteinase to be expressed in implantation and may play a critical role in connecting embryo hatching to the establishment of implantation competence at the abembryonic pole of the blastocyst.

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CM O'Sullivan, SY Liu, SL Rancourt and DE Rancourt

Hormones prepare the uterus for the arrival and subsequent invasion of the embryo during pregnancy. Extracellular matrix-degrading proteinases and their inhibitors are involved in this integration process. Recent genetic evidence indicates that there is redundancy within the implantation proteinase cascade, indicating that additional proteinases may be involved. Recently, we described a novel implantation serine proteinase (ISP1) gene that encodes the embryo-derived enzyme strypsin, which is necessary for blastocyst hatching in vitro and the initiation of invasion. The evidence presented in the present study indicates that a second proteinase secreted from the uterus also participates in lysis of the zona pellucida. A second implantation serine proteinase gene (ISP2) was isolated, which encodes a related secreted tryptase expressed specifically within uterine endometrial glands. In pseudopregnancy, ISP2 gene expression is dependent on progesterone priming and is inhibited by the antiprogestin RU486. On the basis of similarities between ISP2 gene expression and that of a progesterone-regulated luminal proteinase associated with lysis of the zona pellucida, it is possible that the strypsin-related protein, ISP2, may encode a zona lysin proteinase.