Background: Preimplantation cross-talk between a functional blastocyst and the endometrium is critical for successful blastocyst implantation. This interaction is mediated in part by endometrial cytokines/growth factors secreted by glandular epithelium into the uterine cavity. Recent evidence suggests that blastocyst-derived hCG may influence the endometrial milieu in conception cycles thereby enhancing receptivity and implantation success. This study investigated the effect of hCG on the secretory profile of a select cohort of 44 cytokines/growth factors from primary human endometrial epithelial cells (hEECs). These factors included those with both known and unknown roles during receptivity and implantation. The expression of one previously unknown hCG-regulated factor, fibroblast growth factor 2 (FGF2), in human endometrium and its effects on hEEC function were further examined.
Methods: hEECs isolated from endometrial biopsies collected from fertile cycling women (n 15) were treated ± recombinant hCG (0.220 IU/ml) for 48 h and conditioned media was quantitatively analysed using Luminex™ multiplex technology. FGF2 was further investigated by immunohistochemistry, western blot and cell-adhesion assays.
Results: Of 44 cytokines/growth factors examined, 39 were produced by hEECs with a distinct profile. hCG (2 IU/ml) significantly increased the production of six factors, including those with known roles in receptivity and trophoblast function (interleukin-11), blastocyst migration and adhesion (CXCL10), blastocyst development (granulocyte macrophage colony-stimulating factor) and one unknown with respect to receptivity and implantation (FGF2). Up-regulation of known hCG-regulated proteins, vascular endothelial growth factor and leukaemia inhibitory factor, validated this study. Immunoreactive epithelial FGF2 increased across the menstrual cycle, being highest in secretory and first trimester pregnancy endometrium in vivo. FGF2 (100 ng/ml) stimulated phosphorylation of ERK1/2 in hEEC with no effect on ERK1/2 abundance and stimulated hEEC adhesion to fibronectin and collagen IV (components of blastocyst/trophectoderm extracellular matrix).
Conclusions: These findings clearly support roles for hCG and FGF2 in the blastocyst-endometrial cross-talk important for endometrial receptivity and blastocyst implantation.
- uterine cavity