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Dev Biol. 2005 Dec 1;288(1):276-83. Epub 2005 Oct 27.

Conditional deletion of beta-catenin in the mesenchyme of the developing mouse uterus results in a switch to adipogenesis in the myometrium.

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Pediatric Surgical Research Laboratories/CPZN6202, Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, 185 Cambridge St., Boston, MA 02114, USA.


Precise cell fate decisions during differentiation of uterine tissues from the embryonic Müllerian duct are critical for normal fertility. Wnt-7a, a member of the Wnt family of secreted signaling molecules that can signal through a canonical beta-catenin pathway, is necessary for the correct differentiation of both anterior/posterior and radial axes of the uterus. In order to investigate the role of beta-catenin directly in mouse uterine development, we have generated mice that are deficient in beta-catenin expression in the embryonic Müllerian duct. We have found that conditional deletion of beta-catenin in the Müllerian duct mesenchyme before postnatal differentiation of the uterine layers results in a phenotype that is distinct from the phenotype observed by deletion of Wnt-7a. Shortly after birth, the uteri of the conditional mutants appear smaller and less organized. The uteri of adult conditional beta-catenin mutants are grossly deficient in smooth muscle of the myometrium, which has been replaced by adipose, a phenotype resembling human lipoleiomyoma. We also show that the adipocytes in the uteri of mice conditionally deleted for beta-catenin are derived from Müllerian inhibiting substance type II receptor-expressing cells suggesting that they share a common origin with the uterine smooth muscle cells. These results describe the first molecular evidence linking disruption of beta-catenin expression in mesenchymal cells with a switch from myogenesis to adipogenesis in vivo.

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