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J Biol Chem. 2000 Nov 24;275(47):37086-92.

Regulation of cyclooxygenase-2 induction in the mouse uterus during decidualization. An event of early pregnancy.

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DuPont Pharmaceuticals Research Laboratory, Wilmington, Delaware 19880-0400, USA.


The infertility phenotype of cyclooxygenase-2 (Cox-2)-deficient female mice establishes the important role of Cox-2 in pregnancy. Cox-2 deficiency results in defective ovulation, fertilization, implantation, and decidualization; the latter of which can be restored in part by the prostacyclin analog carbaprostacyclin. Uterine Cox-2 expression during early pregnancy shows distinct localization and kinetics in the uterine luminal epithelium and underlying stromal cells, suggesting that expression is tightly regulated. Several intracellular signaling cascades including ERK, p38, and JNK are implicated in vitro as critical components of regulated Cox-2 expression in response to mitogens, growth factors, and cytokines. We investigated the involvement of these signaling pathways during Cox-2 induction in vivo by monitoring uterine kinase activity after intraluminal application of a deciduogenic stimulus. Our results show that the ERK and p38 pathways are activated in uterine preparations as early as 5-min post-stimulation. ERK activation was sustained for several hours with a return to baseline levels by 4 h. p38 activation was rapid with a peak at 5-min post-stimulation and returned to near baseline levels after 45 min. Systemic administration of a MEK inhibitor completely inhibited ERK activation, but did not affect early (2 h) luminal epithelial or late (24 h) stromal Cox-2 expression and only modestly affected decidualization. In contrast, administration of a p38 inhibitor modestly inhibited early Cox-2 expression in the luminal epithelium, while dramatically diminishing late stromal expression. In parallel, induced stromal peroxisomal proliferator activated receptor-delta (PPARdelta) expression is blunted by p38 inhibition. p38 inhibition also significantly inhibited decidualization. These results suggest that p38, but not ERK, activation is required for induced Cox-2 and PPARdelta expression during decidualization. In addition, inhibition of p38 led to decreased decidualization suggesting that an intracrine prostanoid pathway consisting of Cox-2, prostacyclin, and PPARdelta is required for maintenance of early pregnancy.

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