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Development. 1996 Sep;122(9):2687-96.

Mechanisms of reduced fertility in Hoxa-10 mutant mice: uterine homeosis and loss of maternal Hoxa-10 expression.

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Department of Medicine, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA 02115, USA.


The establishment of a receptive uterine environment is critical for embryonic survival and implantation. One gene that is expressed in the uterus during the peri-implantation period in mice and is required for female fertility is the homeobox gene Hoxa-10. Here we characterize the peri-implantation defects in Hoxa-10 mutant females and investigate functions of Hoxa-10 in the uterine anlage during morphogenesis and in the adult uterus during pregnancy. Examination of pregnancy in Hoxa-10 mutant females has revealed failure of implantation as well as resorption of embryos in the early postimplantation period. Morphologic analysis of the mutant uterus has demonstrated homeotic transformation of the proximal 25% into oviduct. Histology and molecular markers confirm this anterior transformation. Furthermore, in situ hybridization shows that this region coincides with the anterior limit of embryonic Hoxa-10 expression in the urogenital ducts and a parallel transformation is observed in Hoxa-10 mutant males at the junction of the epididymis and ductus deferens. Female fertility could be compromised by either the homeotic transformation or the absence of Hoxa-10 function in the adult during pregnancy. To distinguish between these two potential mechanisms of infertility, wildtype blastocysts were transferred into mutant uteri distal to the transformed region on day 2.5 of pseudopregnancy. This procedure did not rescue the phenotype, suggesting that adult uterine expression of Hoxa-10 is required during pregnancy. Moreover, when implantation was experimentally delayed, homozygous uteri were able to support survival of blastocysts comparable to wild-type controls, indicating that the requirement for Hoxa-10 is intrinsic to implantation. While expression of LIF and HB-EGF appears unaffected in the mutant uteri, a decrease is observed in the intensity and number of blue dye reactions, an indicator of increased vascular permeability in response to implantation. In addition, mutant uteri exhibited decreased decidualization in response to artificial stimuli. These results show that Hoxa-10 is required during morphogenesis for proper patterning of the reproductive tract and in the adult uterus for peri-implantation events.

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