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Development. 1994 May;120(5):1071-83.

Heparin-binding EGF-like growth factor gene is induced in the mouse uterus temporally by the blastocyst solely at the site of its apposition: a possible ligand for interaction with blastocyst EGF-receptor in implantation.

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  • 1Department of Physiology, Ralph L. Smith Research Center, University of Kansas Medical Center, Kansas City 66160-7338.


Heparin-binding EGF-like growth factor (HB-EGF) is a newly discovered member of the EGF family of growth factors. HB-EGF can bind to two loci on cell surfaces, heparan sulphate proteoglycans and EGF-receptor (EGF-R), and either one or both of these interactions could play a role in cell-cell interactions. In the rodent, increased endometrial vascular permeability at the site of blastocyst apposition is considered to be an earliest discernible prerequisite event in the process of implantation and this event coincides with the initial attachment reaction between the blastocyst trophectoderm and uterine luminal epithelium. This investigation demonstrates that the HB-EGF gene is expressed in the mouse uterine luminal epithelium surrounding the blastocyst 6-7 hours before the attachment reaction that occurs at 2200-2300 hours on day 4 of pregnancy. It was further demonstrated that this gene is not expressed in the luminal epithelium at the site of the blastocyst apposition during the progesterone-maintained delayed implantation, but is readily induced in the luminal epithelium surrounding an activated blastocyst after termination of the delay by an estrogen injection. In vitro studies showed that HB-EGF induced blastocyst EGF-R autophosphorylation, and promoted blastocyst growth, zona-hatching and trophoblast outgrowth. These results suggest possible interactions between the uterine HB-EGF and blastocyst EGF-R very early in the process of implantation, earlier than any other embryo-uterine interactions defined to date at the molecular level.

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