Maternal endometrial leukaemia inhibitory factor (LIF) is required for successful implantation in mice. Mice with homozygous deletions in this gene fail to support implantation. The localization of immunoreactive LIF and the concentration of the mRNA encoding human LIF in normal endometrium during the menstrual cycle were investigated. The amount of RNA was low or undetectable in the proliferative phase but increased by approximately six times in the mid- to late secretory phase. The protein can only be detected by immunocytochemistry in glandular epithelium in the mid- or late secretory phase. To investigate the possible target for the endometrial LIF, we undertook reverse transcription–PCR analysis of early human embryos to determine whether they contain the mRNA encoding the LIF receptor. This study indicated that at the time of implantation in humans, the maternal endometrium produces LIF and that the blastocyst expresses LIF receptor mRNA and therefore may be capable of responding to this signal.
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