The endometrium is normally a hostile environment for an embryo, except for a short phase in each reproductive cycle known as the 'window of receptivity'. The precise molecular events involved in this transformation are not well understood. Application of state-of-the-art techniques of the 1990s has identified some of the genes involved, which are reviewed here. Mice with a null mutation in either the gene for leukemia inhibitory factor or the interleukin-11 receptor α chain are infertile, owing in both cases to a failure of embryo implantation. Both of these genes are expressed in the human endometrium with patterns suggesting a role in human fertility. The technique of RNA differential display has been applied to a comparison of the expression of genes at implantation sites v. inter-implantation sites in the mouse uterus on the first day of implantation, and has defined additional genes whose products may be important for this process. Among these are the calcium-binding protein D9K, the monoclonal non-specific suppressor factor β, and the splicing factor SC35. The major challenge is to determine whether manipulation of such genes can increase or decrease endometrial receptivity in humans.
- Leukemia inhibitory factor
- Monoclonal non-specific suppressor factor β
- Splicing factor SC35