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Chun-Bo Teng, Hong-Lu Diao, Hong Ma, Jing Cong, Hao Yu, Xing-Hong Ma, Li-Bin Xu and Zeng-Ming Yang

Signal transducer and activator of transcription 3 (Stat3), a member of the Stat family, is specifically activated during mouse embryo implantation. The aim of this study was to investigate the expression, activation and regulation of Stat3 in rat uterus during early pregnancy, pseudopregnancy, delayed implantation and artificial decidualization. Stat3 mRNA was highly expressed in the luminal epithelium on day 5 and in the luminal epithelium and underlying stromal cells at implantation sites on day 6 of pregnancy. There was a strong level of Stat3 protein expression and phosphorylation in the stromal cells near the lumen and in the luminal epithelium on day 5 of pregnancy, which was similar to day 5 of pseudopregnancy. In the afternoon of day 6, the strong level of Stat3 phosphorylation was detected only in the luminal epithelium. Stat3 was highly expressed and activated in the decidual cells from days 7 to 9 of pregnancy and under artificial decidualization in the present study. Our results suggest that the strong level of Stat3 activation in the luminal epithelium and underlying stromal cells during the pre-implantation period may be important for establishing uterine receptivity as in mice, and the high level of Stat3 expression and activation in decidual cells may play a role during decidualization.

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Kalle T Rytkönen, Taija Heinosalo, Mehrad Mahmoudian, Xinghong Ma, Antti Perheentupa, Laura L Elo, Matti Poutanen and Günter P Wagner

Human reproductive success depends on a properly decidualized uterine endometrium that allows implantation and the formation of the placenta. At the core of the decidualization process are endometrial stromal fibroblasts (ESF) that differentiate to decidual stromal cells (DSC). As variations in oxygen levels are functionally relevant in endometrium both upon menstruation and during placentation, we assessed the transcriptomic responses to hypoxia in ESF and DSC. In both cell types, hypoxia-upregulated genes in classical hypoxia pathways such as glycolysis and the epithelial mesenchymal transition. In DSC, hypoxia restored an ESF-like transcriptional state for a subset of transcription factors that are known targets of the progesterone receptor, suggesting that hypoxia partially interferes with progesterone signaling. In both cell types, hypoxia modified transcription of several inflammatory transcription factors that are known regulators of decidualization, including decreased transcription of STATs and increased transcription of CEBPs. We observed that hypoxia-upregulated genes in ESF and DSC had a significant overlap with genes previously detected to be upregulated in endometriotic stromal cells. Promoter analysis of the genes in this overlap suggested the hypoxia-upregulated Jun/Fos and CEBP transcription factors as potential drivers of endometriosis-associated transcription. Using immunohistochemistry, we observed increased expression of JUND and CEBPD in endometriosis lesions compared to healthy endometria. Overall, the findings suggest that hypoxic stress establishes distinct transcriptional states in ESF and DSC and that hypoxia influences the expression of genes that contribute to the core gene regulation of endometriotic stromal cells.