Int. J. Dev. Biol. 58: 139 - 146 (2014)
doi: 10.1387/ijdb.130348mb
© UPV/EHU Press

Role of uterine stromal-epithelial crosstalk in embryo implantation

Alison M. Hantak1, Indrani C. Bagchi2 and Milan K. Bagchi*,1

1Departments of Molecular & Integrative Physiology and 2Comparative Biosciences, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, IL, USA

ABSTRACT Embryo implantation is a crucial step for successful pregnancy. Prior to implantation, the luminal epithelium undergoes steroid hormone-induced structural and functional changes that render it competent for embryo attachment. Subsequent invasion of the embryo into the maternal tissue triggers differentiation of the underlying stromal cells to form the decidua, a transient tissue which supports the developing embryo. Many molecular cues of both stromal and epithelial origin have been identified that are critical mediators of this process. An important aspect of uterine biology is the elaborate crosstalk that occurs between these tissue compartments during early pregnancy through expression of paracrine factors regulated by the steroid hormones estrogen and progesterone. Aberrant expression of these factors often leads to implantation failure and infertility. Genetically-engineered mouse models have been instrumental in elucidating what these paracrine factors are, what drives their expression, and what their effects are on neighboring cells. This review provides an overview of several well-characterized signaling pathways that span both epithelial and stromal compartments and their function during implantation in the mouse.

Keywords:

steroid hormone, uterine receptivity, uterine proliferation, uterine differentiation, pregnancy

*Corresponding author e-mail: mbagchi@life.illinois.edu