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Hum Reprod. 2011 Jan;26(1):67-75. doi: 10.1093/humrep/deq294. Epub 2010 Nov 23.

CTGF expression is up-regulated by PROK1 in early pregnancy and influences HTR-8/Svneo cell adhesion and network formation.

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  • 1Medical Research Council, Human Reproductive Sciences Unit, The Queen's Medical Research Institute, Edinburgh, UK.



Prokineticin-1 (PROK1) and connective tissue growth factor (CTGF) are expressed in human endometrium and first-trimester decidua and have individually been proposed to have roles in implantation and placentation. We have recently demonstrated that CTGF may be a target gene for PROK1 in gene array analysis of a prokineticin receptor-1 stably transfected Ishikawa endometrial epithelial cell line (PROKR1-Ishikawa). The first aim of the study was to determine the effect of PROK1 on CTGF expression in PROKR1-Ishikawa cells and first-trimester decidua samples. Secondly, the effect of CTGF on trophoblast-derived HTR-8/SVneo cell adhesion and network formation was investigated.


Real-time qPCR showed that CTGF expression is elevated in first-trimester decidua compared with non-pregnant endometrium. In decidua, CTGF co-localized with PROKR1 to the glandular epithelium and a subset of stromal cells. PROK1 increased CTGF mRNA and protein expression in PROKR1-Ishikawa cells and first-trimester human decidua (8-12 weeks gestation). Knock down of endogenous PROK1 using micro RNA constructs targeted at PROK1, resulted in decreased expression of CTGF mRNA and protein in decidua. Inhibitors of specific cell signalling molecules demonstrated that PROK1 regulates CTGF expression via the Gq, phospholipase C (PLC), cSrc, epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR), mitogen-activated protein kinase/extracellular signal-regulated kinase (MAPK/ERK) kinase pathway activation. Treatment of trophoblast-derived HTR-8/Svneo cells with 1 µg/ml CTGF significantly increased adhesion to collagen IV, and differentiation of the cells into tube-like structures in matrigel.


CTGF expression in early pregnancy decidua is regulated by PROK1, via activation of the Gq, PLC, cSrc, EGFR, MAPK/ERK kinase pathway. CTGF in turn may contribute to the regulation of trophoblast conversion of maternal spiral arteries.

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