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Reprod Biol Endocrinol. 2003 May 26;1:44.

Apoptosis in uterine epithelium and decidua in response to implantation: evidence for two different pathways.

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  • 1Institute of Anatomy, University Hospital of Essen, Essen, Germany.


During the initial steps of implantation, the mouse uterine epithelium of the implantation chamber undergoes apoptosis in response to the interacting blastocyst. With progressing implantation, regression of the decidual cells allows a restricted and coordinated invasion of trophoblast cells into the maternal compartment. In order to investigate pathways of apoptosis in mouse uterine epithelium and decidua during early pregnancy (day 4.5-7.0 post coitum), we have investigated different proteins such as TNFalpha, TNF receptor1, Fas ligand, Fas receptor1, Bax and Bcl2 as well as caspase-9 and caspase-3 using immunohistochemistry. To detect cells undergoing apoptosis the Tunel assay was performed. Immunoreactivity for TNFalpha as well as for TNF receptor1 was observed exclusively in the epithelium of the implantation chamber and the adjacent luminal epithelium from day 4.5 post coitum onwards. In the developing decidua the Fas ligand, but not the Fas receptor, was expressed. Bax and Bcl2 revealed a complementary expression pattern with Bax in the primary and Bcl2 in the adjacent decidual zone. Strong immunolabelling for the initiator caspase-9 was restricted to the decidual compartment, whereas caspase-3 expression characterized the apoptotic uterine epithelium. Only some caspase-3 positive decidual cells were found around the embryo which correlated to the pattern of Tunel staining. Taken together, the apoptotic degeneration of the uterine epithelium seems to be mediated by TNF receptor1 followed by caspase-3, whereas the very moderate regression of the decidua did not show the investigated death receptor, but Bax and Blc2 instead and in addition caspase-9, which indicates a different regulation for epithelial versus decidual apoptosis.

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