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Free access

Vanina Fontana, Virginia Choren, Liliana Vauthay, Juan Carlos Calvo, Lucrecia Calvo and Monica Cameo

Implantation is a crucial event in human pregnancy. The participation of cytokines in the implantation process has been widely documented, although the role of many of these molecules is still a matter of controversy. In a previous report from our laboratory, we demonstrated that addition of interferon-γ to the culture medium produces deleterious effects on mouse embryo development. In this study we investigated the effect of this cytokine on outgrowing embryo morphology and on the expression of epidermal growth factor receptors (ErbBs) and heparan sulfate proteoglycan (perlecan) in mouse embryos cultured in vitro. Morphological assessment of inner cell mass and trophoblast development was carried on in-situ fixed and stained outgrowths. Localization of ErbB1, ErbB4 and perlecan on pre- and peri-implantation embryos was investigated by immunocytochemistry. Addition of interferon-γ produced a deleterious effect on both inner cell mass and trophoblast morphology. Immunostaining demonstrated that ErbB1, ErbB4 and perlecan are present on pre-implantation embryos and blasto-cysts; interferon-γ altered the expression of ErbB4 and Perlecan at the blastocyst stage. We propose that the effects produced by this cytokine could be related to the altered acquisition of adhesion competence and low implantation rates observed in certain reproductive immunological disorders.

Free access

J. A. Mitchell and H.-W. Denker

Summary. Localization of uterine arylamidase activity varied between species: arylamidase was found primarily in the apical aspect of uterine epithelial cells in the rabbit, hamster and non-pregnant rat; only moderate staining was observed in these animals in the endometrial stroma. By contrast, arylamidase localization was primarily stromal in the guinea-pig at all stages studied while the luminal epithelium was devoid of reactivity. In all species, uterine enzyme activity increased before implantation but decreased in the vicinity of the blastocyst once implantation had begun. A generalized increase over the entire length of the uterus was seen during the preimplantation phase in the uterine epithelium of the rabbit and in the endometrial stroma of the guinea-pig. Increase in stromal activity appeared to indicate predecidual transformations which were embryo-dependent (i.e. localized to the implantation site) in the rat, or embryo-independent (i.e. occurring throughout the uterus) in the guinea-pig. A subsequent decrease in enzyme activity occurred in the vicinity of the implanting embryo irrespective of the cell type involved (epithelium in the rabbit, stroma/decidua in the rat and guinea-pig). Since arylamidases of the type studied here are integrated membrane proteins, the uniformity of changes observed in different species may reflect profound changes in membrane properties of endometrial cells as an element of the implantation reaction.

Keywords: uterus; arylamidase; aminopeptidase; implantation; epithelium; stroma

Free access

KE Markham and PL Kaye

The role of growth hormone (GH) in embryonic growth is controversial, yet preimplantation embryos express GH, insulin-like growth factor I (IGF-I) and their receptors. In this study, addition of bovine GH doubled the proportion of two-cell embryos forming blastocysts and increased by about 25% the number of cells in those blastocysts with a concentration-response curve showing maximal activity at 1 pg bovine GH ml(-1), with decreasing activity at higher and lower concentrations. GH increased the number of cells in the trophectoderm by 25%, but did not affect the inner cell mass of blastocysts. Inhibition of cell proliferation by anti-GH antiserum indicated that GH is a potent autocrine or paracrine regulator of the number of trophectoderm cells in vivo. Type 1 IGF receptors (IGF1R) were localized to cytoplasmic vesicles and plasma membrane in the apical domains of uncompacted and compacted eight-cell embryos, but were predominantly apparent in cytoplasmic vesicles of the trophectoderm cells of the blastocyst, similar to GH receptors. Studies using alpha IR3 antiserum which blocks ligand activation of IGF1R, showed that IGF1R participate in the autocrine or paracrine regulation of the number of cells in the inner cell mass by an endogenous IGF-I-IGF1R pathway. However, alpha IR3 did not affect GH stimulation of the number of trophectoderm cells. Therefore, GH does not use secondary actions via embryonic IGF-I to modify the number of blastocyst cells. This result indicates that GH and IGF-I act independently. GH may selectively regulate the number of trophectoderm cells and thus implantation and placental growth. Embryonic GH may act in concert with IGF-I, which stimulates proliferation in the inner cell mass, to optimize blastocyst development.

Free access

Laura C Schulz and R Michael Roberts

The hormone leptin, which is primarily produced by adipose tissue, is a critical permissive factor for multiple reproductive events in the mouse, including implantation. In the CD1 strain, maternally derived leptin from the oocyte becomes differentially distributed among the blastomeres of pre-implantation embryos to create a polarized pattern, a feature consistent with a model of development in which blastomeres are biased toward a particular fate as early as the two-cell stage. In this study, we have confirmed that embryonic leptin is of maternal origin and re-examined leptin distribution in two distinct strains in which embryos were derived after either normal ovulation or superovulation. A polarized pattern of leptin distribution was found in the majority of both CD1 and CF1 embryos (79.1 and 76.9% respectively) collected following superovulation but was reduced, particularly in CF1 embryos (29.8%; P<0.0001), after natural ovulation. The difference in leptin asymmetries in the CF1 strain arose between ovulation and the first cleavage division and was not affected by removal of the zona pellucida. The presence or absence of leptin polarization was not linked to differences in the ability of embryos to normally develop to blastocyst. In the early blastocyst, leptin was confined subcortically to trophectoderm, but on blastocoel expansion, it was lost from the cells. Throughout development, leptin co-localized with LRP2, a multi-ligand transport protein, and its patterning resembled that noted for the maternal-effect proteins OOEP, NLRP5, and PADI6, suggesting that it is a component of the subcortical maternal complex with as yet unknown significance in pre-implantation development.

Free access

N. R. Spinks, J. P. Ryan and C. O'Neill

Summary. This study utilized the transfer of preimplantation embryos to pseudo-pregnant mice to determine whether PAF-antagonists act primarily on the maternal or embryonic components of implantation. The first experiment used reciprocal embryo transfers, in which blastocysts from mice treated with PAF antagonist (SRI 63-441) or saline (controls), from Days 1 to 4 of pregnancy, were transferred to Day-3 pseudo-pregnant recipients which were also treated with SRI 63-441 or saline on Days 1–4 of pregnancy. The antagonist (40 μg) was administered at 16:00 h on Day 1 and at 09:00 h on Days 2–4 of pregnancy. The percentage of the transferred embryos which implanted was determined on Day 8 of pregnancy. Treatment of the recipient or the donor female with SRI 63-441 resulted in a reduction in implantation rate, from a control level of 45% to 33·8% or 34·7% (P < 0·0002, P < 0·007) respectively. These results suggest that the PAF antagonist affected implantation at the embryonic and maternal levels. However, when the blastocysts were transferred to Day-4 pseudopregnant recipients, treatment of the donor female had a dramatic effect on the implantation rate, resulting in a reduction of 64% (from 40% to 14·3%, P < 0·04), while treatment of the recipient female had no significant effect. In this later experiment the transferred embryos were exposed to the recipient uterine environment for a shorter period before implantation. These results suggest that PAF antagonists affected implantation at the embryonic level and did not adversely affect maternal physiology. Treatment of pseudopregnant females with PAF antagonist failed to inhibit the deciduogenic response to an intrauterine instillation of paraffin oil, while supplementing embryo culture medium with iloprost, SRI 63-441 or WEB 2086 caused a marked and dose-dependent inhibition of trophoblast outgrowth by blastocysts in vitro. These results were consistent with PAF antagonists having actions at the embryonic rather than the maternal level and support previous suggestions that embryo-derived PAF acts as an essential autocrine growth factor for the early embryo.

Keywords: PAF; PAF antagonists; implantation; embryo; endometrium; autocrine growth factor; mouse

Free access

Rebecca L Jones, Chelsea Stoikos, Jock K Findlay and Lois A Salamonsen

Transforming growth factor β (TGFβ) superfamily members are closely associated with tissue remodelling events and reproductive processes. This review summarises the current state of knowledge regarding the expression and actions of TGFβ superfamily members in the uterus, during the menstrual cycle and establishment of pregnancy. TGFβs and activin β subunits are abundantly expressed in the endometrium, where roles in preparation events for implantation have been delineated, particularly in promoting decidualisation of endometrial stroma. These growth factors are also expressed by epithelial glands and secreted into uterine fluid, where interactions with preimplantation embryos are anticipated. Knockout models and embryo culture experiments implicate activins, TGFβs, nodal and bone morphogenetic proteins (BMPs) in promoting pre- and post-implantation embryo development. TGFβ superfamily members may therefore be important in the maternal support of embryo development. Following implantation, invasion of the decidua by fetal trophoblasts is tightly modulated. Activin promotes, whilst TGFβ and macrophage inhibitory cytokine-1 (MIC-1) inhibit, trophoblast migration in vitro, suggesting the relative balance of TGFβ superfamily members participate in modulating the extent of decidual invasion. Activins and TGFβs have similar opposing actions in regulating placental hormone production. Inhibins and activins are produced by the placenta throughout pregnancy, and have explored as a potential markers in maternal serum for pregnancy and placental pathologies, including miscarriage, Down’s syndrome and pre-eclampsia. Finally, additional roles in immunomodulation at the materno-fetal interface, and in endometrial inflammatory events associated with menstruation and repair, are discussed.

Open access

Y Li, Michelle K Y Seah and C O'Neill

Reprogramming epigenetic modifications to cytosine is required for normal embryo development. We used improved immunolocalization techniques to simultaneously map global changes in the levels of 5′-methylcytosine (5meC) and 5′-hydroxymethylcytosine (5hmC) in each cell of the embryo from fertilization through the first rounds of cellular differentiation. The male and female pronuclei of the zygote showed similar staining levels, and these remained elevated over the next three cell cycles. The inner cells of the morula showed a progressive reduction in global levels of both 5meC and 5hmC and further losses occurred in the pluripotent inner cell mass (ICM) of the blastocyst. This was accompanied by undetectable levels of DNA methyltransferase of each class in the nuclei of the ICM, while DNA methyltransferase 3B was elevated in the hypermethylated nuclei of the trophectoderm (TE). Segregation of the ICM into hypoblast and epiblast was accompanied by increased levels in the hypoblast compared with the epiblast. Blastocyst outgrowth in vitro is a model for implantation and showed that a demethylated state persisted in the epiblast while the hypoblast had higher levels of both 5meC and 5hmC staining. The high levels of 5meC and 5hmC evident in the TE persisted in trophoblast and trophoblast giant cells after attachment of the blastocyst to the substratum in vitro. This study shows that global cytosine hypomethylation and hypohydroxymethylation accompanied the formation of the pluripotent ICM and this persisted into the epiblast after blastocyst outgrowth, and each differentiated lineage formed in the early embryo showed higher global levels of 5meC and 5hmC.

Free access

M. P. Rechtman, J. Zhang and L. A. Salamonsen

Implantation of the embryo into the endometrium is a highly regulated event that is critical for establishment of pregnancy. Molecules involved in this process provide potential targets for post-coital contraception. The aims of this study were to determine whether matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) are present at implantation sites in rats and whether administration of a broad-based inhibitor of MMPs could inhibit embryo implantation. Uterine extracts from non-pregnant rats and from rats on days 3–9 of pregnancy were examined for the presence of MMPs. Doxycycline (5 or 15 mg day−1) was administered by gavage to rats from the day of mating (day 0) to day 7 of pregnancy and the uterus was examined for implantation sites. A number of MMPs were present in all uterine samples. MMP-2 reached a peak on day 3, whereas the highest expression of MMP-7 occurred on day 7. MMP-13 and MMP-3 were present in smaller amounts. MMP-9 was detectable only on day 9. Treatment of rats with doxycycline had no effect on the number of implantation sites or on the total uterine mass. However, in treated rats, the process of decidualization was impaired and both the width and length of the decidual zone was reduced, resulting in a decrease in total decidual area from 1.20 ± 0.07 to 0.91 ± 0.07 mm2 (mean ± sem, controls versus doxycycline treated, P < 0.02). It is concluded that administration of MMP inhibitors during early pregnancy retards decidual development, but does not block implantation.

Free access

Li-Juan Xiao, Jin-Xiang Yuan, Xin-Xin Song, Yin-Chuan Li, Zhao-Yuan Hu and Yi-Xun Liu

Stanniocalcin-1 (STC-1) is a recently discovered polypeptide hormone, while stanniocalcin-2 (STC-2) is a subsequently identified homologue of stanniocalcin-1. Although previous studies have shown that both STC-1 and -2 are involved in various physiological processes, such as ion transport, reproduction and development, their expression in the uterus and roles in implantation and early pregnancy are unclear. Here we have investigated the expression and regulation of both STC-1 and STC-2 in rat uterus during early pregnancy under various physiological conditions. We show that only basal levels of STC-1 and STC-2 mRNA were detected in the uterus from day one (D1) to day five (D5) of pregnancy. STC-2 immunostaining was gradually increased in the glandular epithelium from day two (D2), with a peak occurring on D5. High levels of both STC-1 and STC-2 mRNA were observed in the stoma cells at the implantation site on day six (D6) of pregnancy, whereas their immunostaining signals were also significant in the luminal epithelium. Basal levels of both STC-1 and STC-2 mRNA and STC-1 immunostaining were detected in the uterus with delayed implantation. After the delayed implantation was terminated by estrogen treatment, both STC-1 and STC-2 mRNA signals were significantly induced in the stroma underlying the luminal epithelium at the implantation site, and STC-2 immunostaining was also observed in the luminal epithelium surrounding the implanting blastocyst. Embryo transfer experiments further confirmed that STC-1 and STC-2 expression at the implantation sites was induced by the implanting blastocyst. Both STC-1 mRNA and immunostaining were seen in the decidualized cells from day seven (D7) to day nine (D9) of pregnancy. STC-2 mRNA was also found in the whole decidua from D7 to D9 of pregnancy; STC-2 protein, however, was strictly localized to the primary deciduas on D7 and D8, with a weak expression in the whole deciduas on D9. Consistent with the normal pregnancy process, strong STC-1 and STC-2 mRNA signals were detected in the decidualized cells under artificial decidualization, whereas only basal levels of STC-1 mRNA and immunostaining were observed in the control horn. These data suggest, for the first time, that STC-1 together with STC-2 may play important roles in the processes of implantation and decidualization in the rat.

Free access

Y. Yamamoto, M. Kurohmaru and Y. Hayashi

Summary. Mouse trophoblast and decidua were examined by means of immunohistochemistry to define the localization of type I interferon. The decidua were stained for type I interferon at the time of implantation. The strong reaction was first observed in the primary decidual zone on day 5 and subsequently in the secondary decidual zone on day 6. After day 10, the decidua basalis and decidua capsularis showed a strong reaction.

At the one-cell stage, embryos were weakly labelled, but a positive reaction was recognized in compacted morulae. Blastocysts on days 3 and 4 were positive in trophoblast and inner cell mass and a strong reaction was observed in the primitive endoderm on day 4. The visceral endoderm on day 5 and the trophoblast on day 6 were positive. After day 10, the trophoblast giant cells, labyrinth, visceral yolk sac and fetal blood cells gave a positive reaction.

This study is the first demonstration of type I interferon localization in situ in mouse trophoblast and decidua during decidual formation.

Keywords: type I interferon; implantation; decidualization; trophoblast; mouse