Endometrial responses to embryonic signals in the primate
Review | Published: 9 October 2009
Prajna Banerjee1 and Asgerally T. Fazleabas*,2
1Department of Physiology and Biophysics and 2Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of Illinois, Chicago, IL, USA
The delicate interaction between an embryo and the uterus to initiate implantation and maintain pregnancy is one of the most elegant and fascinating interactions in human biology. Understanding the molecular events of embryo-maternal interaction is of interest to reproductive biologists, clinicians and couples affected by infertility. We have established the baboon as the non-human primate model for studying embryo implantation. Infusion of chorionic gonadotropin (CG), the major embryonic signal of primates, into the uterine cavity of normal cycling baboons during the window of receptivity induces a myriad of morphological, biochemical and molecular changes in the estrogen and progesterone primed endometrium. The luminal epithelium responds by forming plaques, the overall secretory function of the glandular epithelium increases and the stromal response is characterized by induction of alpha-smooth muscle actin (alphaSMA). Cross talk between ovarian and embryonic hormones is evidenced by the fact that these responses are inhibited upon treatment with a progesterone receptor antagonist. CG signals principally through the seven transmembrane LH/CG G-protein coupled receptor, and activates a mitogen activated protein kinase pathway in the endometrial epithelium that is unique and independent of all the classical signaling pathways. In the stromal compartment, CG both rescues stromal fibroblasts from their apoptotic demise and also differentiates them into the decidualized phenotype. We propose that stromal cell survival and differentiation is mediated by a critical modulator of cell fate, Notch-1. Thus, CG is an important embryonic signal which modulates communication between the embryo and the endometrium and induces changes that are critical to successful implantation.