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Implantation of the blastocyst marks the onset of an intimate association between the mother and embryo which makes the peri-implantation stages particularly inaccessible to investigation. Although extensive studies have now been carried out on the pre-implantation and, to some extent, the post-implantation stages in vitro, little is known of the requirements for growth and differentiation during the implantation period. Such information, and the ability to culture embryos through the implantation stage, would be useful in the evaluation of events at this time.

In the media commonly employed for the culture of preimplantation mouse embryos, which consist of a balanced salt solution (BSS) supplemented with bovine serum albumin (BSA) and energy sources, development normally proceeds to the expanded-blastocyst stage. At this time the blastocyst may hatch from its zona pellucida and remain free-floating in an apparently arrested condition

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Anubha Joshi, Sahil Mahfooz, Vineet Kumar Maurya, Vijay Kumar, Chadchan Sangappa Basanna, Gurpreet Kaur, Kashif Hanif and Rajesh Kumar Jha

Pregnancy requires successful implantation of an embryo, which occurs during a restricted period defined as ‘receptivity of the endometrium’ and is influenced by the ovarian steroids progesterone and oestradiol. The role of poly(ADP-ribose)polymerase-1 (PARP1) in apoptosis is well established. However, it is also involved in cell differentiation, proliferation and tissue remodelling. Previous studies have described the presence of PARP in the uterus, but its exact role in embryo implantation is not yet elucidated. Hence, in this study, we studied the expression of PARP1 in the uterus during embryo implantation and decidualisation, and its regulation by ovarian steroids. Our results show upregulation of the native form of PARP1 (∼116 kDa) in the cytosolic and nuclear compartments of implantation and non-implantation sites at day 5 (0500 h), followed by downregulation at day 5 (1000 h), during the embryo implantation period. The transcript level of Parp1 was also augmented during day 5 (0500 h). Inhibition of PARP1 activity by the drug EB-47 decreased the number of embryo implantation sites and blastocysts at day 5 (1000 h). Further, cleavage of native PARP1 was due to the activity of caspase-3 during the peri-implantation stage (day 5 (0500 h)), and is also required for embryo implantation, as inhibition of its activity compromised blastocyst implantation. The native (∼116 kDa) and cleaved (∼89 kDa) forms of PARP1 were both elevated during decidualisation of the uterus. Furthermore, the expression level of PARP1 in the uterus was found to be under the control of the hormone oestrogen. Our results clearly demonstrate that PARP1 participates in the process of embryo implantation.

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Tae Bon Koo, Haengseok Song, Irene Moon, Kyuyong Han, Chen Chen, Kenneth Murphy and Hyunjung Lim

The objective of the present investigation was to examine the spatio-temporal expression of three members of the ETS family of transcription factors, ERM, ER81, and PEA3, in the peri-implantation mouse uterus and in the ovary. These three factors belong to the PEA3 subfamily and are known to mediate diverse functions ranging from neuronal development to tumor progression. As transcription factors, they regulate the expression of a number of genes with various biological functions. Since several genes with known roles in the reproductive processes have been shown to be under the regulation of one of these factors, we sought to investigate the expression of ERM, ER81, and PEA3 in the mouse ovary and uterus. Quantitative RT-PCR analyses showed that ERM, ER81, and PEA3 were all expressed in the peri-implantation mouse uterus, with higher levels of expression on days 4 and 5 of pregnancy. To determine the cell type-specific expression of these factors, we employed in situ hybridization, the results of which revealed that ERM was expressed in both the epithelium and the stroma on days 4 and 5 of pregnancy. Uterine glands showed a high expression of ERM on those days. ERM was also highly expressed in the corpora lutea of the mouse ovary. Both ER81 and PEA3 were expressed at low levels in the stroma on days 4 and 5. On day 8, while ERM and PEA3 were mainly expressed in the embryo and were at low levels in the maternal decidua in a diffused pattern, ER81 was highly expressed in the vascular bed of the mesometrial deciduum. Both ER81 and PEA3 were undetectable in the mouse ovary. Collectively, these data show that ERM is implicated in the early event of implantation as well as in ovarian functions, while ER81 is involved in the establishment of the maternal vasculature for subsequent placental development. PEA3 is apparently an embryonic factor for early embryogenesis.

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A nylon suture inserted into one uterine horn prevented implantation in the same horn in 60·7% of rats. In the remainder which showed implantations in the treated horn, the number of implantation sites was significantly lower than in control horns. Some of these embryos were underdeveloped or dying.

Histologically it could be shown that in some rats implantations occur even if the suture passes through the lumen of the horn.

The leucocytic infiltration of the endometrium was associated with prevention of implantation, but it occurred, albeit to a lesser extent, also in rats with implantations in treated horns.

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Rebecca M Harman, Robert G Cowan, Yi Ren and Susan M Quirk

The role of the hedgehog (HH) signaling pathway in implantation was studied in mice in which the HH signal transducer, smoothened (SMO), was conditionally deleted in the stromal compartment of the uterus, using CRE recombinase expressed through the Amhr2 cre allele. In Amhr2 cre/ + Smo null/flox-mutant mice, Smo mRNA in uterine stroma was reduced 49% compared to that in Amhr2 + / + Smo null/flox control mice, while levels in the luminal epithelium were not different. Litter size was reduced 60% in mutants compared with controls, but ovulation rate and the number of implantation sites on day 7 of pregnancy did not differ. The number of corpora lutea was equivalent to the number of implantation sites, indicating that most ovulations resulted in implanted embryos. However, on days 13 to 15, the rate of embryo resorption was elevated in mutants. In control mice, on day 5, implantation sites were present and blastocysts were well-attached. In contrast, blastocysts were readily flushed from uteri of mutant mice on day 5 and implantation sites were rare. On days 5.5 and 6, implantation sites were present in mutant mice, and by day 6 embryos could not be flushed from the uterus. The weight of implantation sites on day 7 was decreased by 42% in mutant mice, consistent with delayed development. Signaling through SMO in the endometrial stroma is required for optimal timing of implantation, and deferred implantation leads to defective embryo development and subsequent pregnancy loss.

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Lynne Selwood and P. A. Woolley

Summary. Aged stages (63) were available for establishment of a timetable of embryonic development of the stripe-faced dunnart. On Day 0 oocytes reaching maturity were found in the ovary. Within ± 24 h of time 0 (time of minimum morning weight) polymorphonuclear leucocytes appeared and spermatozoa were last detected in the urine of 70% of females. Embryos were collected at intervals during pregnancy by hemihysterectomy and the embryos in the contralateral uterus either were examined at a later stage of pregnancy or allowed to develop to term.

Cleavage to the unilaminar blastocyst stage with around 32 cells took 3 days with a cleavage arrest of 24 h at the 4-cell stage. Expansion of the unilaminar blastocyst occurred over the next 3 days. Primitive endoderm cells appeared on Day 6, fully bilaminar blastocysts by the end of Day 7 and trilaminar blastocysts on Day 8. Shell loss and implantation of 13–15-somite stage embryos occurred on Day 8 and organogenesis over the next 2–3 days. The gestation period was 9·5–12·0 days with most births occurring between 10·5 and 11·0 days.

Major steps in embryonic development were correlated with stages in the development of the corpora lutea, which were maximal in size, and possibly in secretory activity, when the embryos were at the bilaminar blastocyst stage. Regression commenced when the embryos were at the primitive streak stage. At the time the corpora lutea were maximal the uterine epithelium reached its greatest height and the endometrium was thick and folded. Later in pregnancy villous-like projections of the epithelium formed, and the luminal epithelial cells became rounded.

Two cell populations, a tier of 8 smaller cells above the yolk mass and a tier of 8 larger cells around the sides of the yolk mass appeared at the 16-cell stage. From the 16-cell stage to the blastocyst stage, with 150–200 cells, two cell populations distinguished by size, cell cycle time, cytoplasmic appearance and position relative to the yolk mass were present. The two populations were indistinguishable in blastocysts with > 200 and < 2000 cells. They reappeared in blastocysts with > 2000 cells, as the darker cells of the embryoblast, and as the paler cells of the trophoblast. The darker cells lay in the yolky hemisphere and the paler cells in the non-yolky hemisphere.

Keywords: embryo; development; uterus; corpus luteum; marsupial

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G B Godbole, D N Modi and C P Puri

Homeobox A10 (HOXA10), a member of abdominal B subclass of homeobox genes, is responsible for uterine homeosis during development. Intriguingly, in the adult murine uterus, HOXA10 has been demonstrated to play important roles in receptivity, embryo implantation, and decidualization. However, the roles of HOXA10 in the primate endometrium are not known. To gain insights into the roles of HOXA10 in the primate endometrium, its expression was studied in the endometria of bonnet monkey (Macaca radiata) in the receptive phase and also in the endometria of monkeys treated with antiprogestin onapristone (ZK98.299) or in conception cycle where the presence of preimplantation stage blastocyst was verified. In addition, the mRNA expression of HOXA11 and insulin-like growth factor-binding protein 1 (IGFBP1) was evaluated by real-time PCR in these animals.The results revealed that HOXA10 in the luteal phase primate endometrium is differentially expressed in the functionalis and the basalis zones, which is modulated in vivo by progesterone and also by the signals from the incoming embryo suggesting the involvement of HOXA10 in the process of establishment of pregnancy in primates. In addition, the results also demonstrated that the expression of IGFBP1 but not HOXA11 is coregulated with HOXA10 in the endometria of these animals. The pattern of changes in the expression of HOXA10 in response to the two stimuli suggests that endometrial receptivity and implantation not only requires a synchrony of maternal and embryonic signaling on endometrial cells in the primates but there also exists a controlled differential response among the cells of various uterine compartments.

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Embryos from gonadotrophin-treated mature mice were cultured from the two-cell to the early implantation stage. Their developmental capacity was very similar to that of spontaneously ovulated eggs.

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A. T. L. Andrade, S. T. Shaw Jr, M. O. Guerra and D. E. Aaronson

Summary. Administration of epsilon-aminocaproic acid, a fibrinolytic inhibitor, either orally or from an impregnated IUD, had no effect on numbers of implanted embryos, their viability, or their diameters at Day 10 of pregnancy.

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M. M. Singh, V. Wadhwa, N. Sethi and V. P. Kamboj

Summary. 'Tube-locked' morulae and blastocysts were recovered from the ampulla of the oviduct of centchroman-treated mice between Days 4 and 12 post coitum and transferred to the uteri of pseudopregnant female mice. Pregnancy and implantation rates were lower and the post-implantation resorption rate was higher in the treated than in the control group. There was little difference in the pregnancy or implantation rates between embryos recovered on Days 4 or 12 post coitum, but the resorption rate increased with increasing duration of embryos in the oviducts and was 100% for the Day-12 embryos. The resorption rate was similar even when these embryos were transferred to the sterile uterine horn of unilaterally pregnant mice. Centchroman did not produce any deleterious effect on embryos which survived until Day 19 of pregnancy in foster mothers. The average fetal weight was also comparable to those of control fetuses.