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Biol Reprod. 1997 Feb;56(2):348-56.

Distribution of integrins and the extracellular matrix proteins in the baboon endometrium during the menstrual cycle and early pregnancy.

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  • 1Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of Illinois at Chicago, 60612-7313, USA.


Integrins are heterodimeric glycoproteins that have been found to undergo dynamic temporal and spatial changes in distribution in the endometrium during the menstrual cycle in women. Likewise the extracellular matrix (ECM) ligands for these receptors are likely to play a role in the establishment of a receptive endometrium. To develop primate models to study the role of these molecules in the cascade of molecular events leading to implantation, integrin expression and associated changes in ECM were investigated during the menstrual cycle and in early pregnancy in the baboon. Antibodies specific for the integrins (alpha(1-6) and alpha(v); beta1, beta3, and beta4) and ECM (laminin, collagen IV, fibronectin) were utilized. In addition, cytokeratin and alpha-smooth muscle actin were used as epithelial, stromal, and smooth muscle cell markers, respectively. Endometrium was obtained in duplicate or triplicate during the menstrual cycle and early pregnancy. Changes observed during the natural menstrual cycle were confirmed using ovariectomized, steroid-treated animals. Constitutively expressed integrins on the endometrial epithelium included the collagen/laminin receptors: alpha2, alpha3, alpha6, and beta4. The pattern of expression correlated well with the distribution of ECM in this tissue. Collagen IV was confined to the basement membrane of glandular epithelium and blood vessels. Laminin immunostaining was found in the basement membrane, mostly in the stroma of the basal region, in the glandular endometrium and vasculature. Fibronectin was present throughout the stroma but not in the basement membrane. The collagen receptor alpha1 beta1 and fibronectin receptor alpha4 beta1 appeared in the glandular epithelium in the luteal phase. As in the human, alpha1 and alpha4 disappeared from the glandular epithelium with the establishment of pregnancy. In contrast, the alpha4 beta3 vitronectin receptor appeared in the glandular epithelium only in pregnancy or following long-term steroid treatment with estrogen and progesterone but not during the time of uterine receptivity associated with the initial period of embryo attachment. Osteopontin, an ECM ligand for alpha(v) beta3, was coexpressed with this integrin in invading cytotrophoblasts, glandular epithelium, and decidualizing stromal cells. Decidualization in the baboon was associated with changes in integrin expression similar to those found in humans: there was an increase in alpha1, alpha3, alpha6, beta1, and alpha(v) beta3 in the decidualized stromal cells. Laminin and collagen IV expression also increased at the implantation site and throughout the endometrium. In contrast, fibronectin expression was most evident at the implantation site and corresponded to alpha5 expression on the invading cytotrophoblasts. In summary, marked similarities were found in the expression of ECM and the integrin receptors between the baboon and the human endometrium throughout the menstrual cycle and in pregnancy. Cycle-specific integrins, alpha1, and alpha4, were present on epithelial cells during the secretory phase. Delayed expression of alpha(v) beta3 in baboon endometrial glands correlated closely with the time of enhanced glandular secretory activity in this primate. The baboon appears to be an excellent model for the investigation of the role of integrins and ECM leading to successful implantation.

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