Expression of activin receptors, follistatin and betaglycan by human endometrial stromal cells; consistent with a role for activins during decidualization

Rebecca L. Jones, Lois A. Salamonsen, Yi Chen Zhao, Jean François Ethier, Ann E. Drummond, Jock K. Findlay

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76 Citations (Scopus)


Decidualization of the human endometrium is critical for implantation, but the mechanisms involved are largely unknown. Activin subunits are expressed in endometrium during decidualization. From its known actions in cell differentiation and tissue remodelling, we hypothesized that activin A is involved in the paracrine regulation of decidualization. We examined the expression of activin receptors (ActRs) by semi-quantitative and real-time RT-PCR. mRNA for all ActR subtypes (Ia, Ib, IIa and IIb) was detected in endometrium, with maximal expression in the early secretory phase and in early pregnancy. ActR protein was localized exclusively to stromal and endothelial cells. This expression pattern was confirmed by in-situ hybridization. Activin bioavailability is locally regulated by its binding protein, follistatin, and also by the antagonist, inhibin. Inhibin competition for ActRII binding is enhanced by the binding protein, betaglycan. Follistatin and betaglycan were also detected in the endometrium, localized to stromal and epithelial cells. This co-expression of activin subunits, receptors and binding proteins indicates that stromal cells are capable of responding to activin, and that there is tight local regulation of activin action within the endometrium. As activin production is up-regulated in decidual cells, this provides further evidence for an involvement of activins during stromal cell decidualization.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)363-374
Number of pages12
JournalMolecular Human Reproduction
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2002
Externally publishedYes


  • Activin receptors
  • Betaglycan
  • Decidualization
  • Follistatin
  • Implantation

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