The mouse endometrium contains epithelial, endothelial and leucocyte populations expressing the stem cell marker telomerase reverse transcriptase

James A. Deane, Y. Rue Ong, Jason Cain, W. Samantha N Jayasekara, Abhilasha Tiwari, Diana L. Carlone, David T. Breault, Caroline E. Gargett

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8 Citations (Scopus)


Study hypothesis: The mouse endometrium harbours stem/progenitor cells that express the stem cell marker mouse telomerase reverse transcriptase (mTert). 

Study finding: We used a mouse carrying a transgenic reporter for mTert promoter activity to identify rare endometrial populations of epithelial and endothelial cells that express mTert. 

What is known already: Stem/progenitor cells are hypothesized to be responsible for the remarkable regenerative capacity of the endometrium, but the lack of convenient endometrial stem/progenitor markers in the mouse has hampered investigations into the identity of these cells. 

Study design, samples/materials, methods: A mouse containing a green fluorescent protein (GFP) reporter under the control of the telomerase reverse transcriptase promoter (mTert-GFP) was used to identify potential stem/progenitor cells in the endometrium. mTert promoter activity was determined using fluorescence microscopy and flow cytometry to identify GFP+ cells. GFP+ cells were examined for epithelial, stromal, endothelial, leucocyte and proliferation markers and bromodeoxyuridine retention to determine their identity. The endometrium of ovariectomized mice was compared to that of intact cycling mice to establish the role of ovarian hormones in maintaining mTert-expressing cells. 

Main results and the role of chance: We found thatmTert-GFP is expressed by rare luminal and glandular epithelial cells (0.3% of epithelial cells by flow cytometry), rare CD45- cells in the stromal compartment (0.028±0.010% of stromal cells by microscopy) and many CD45+ leucocytes. Ovariectomy resulted in significant decrease of mTert-GFP+ epithelial cells (P = 0.029 for luminal epithelium; P = 0.034 for glandular epithelium) and a decrease in the percentage of mTert-GFP+ CD45+ leucocytes in the stromal compartment (P = 0.015). However, CD45- mTert-GFP+ cells in the stromal compartment were maintained in ovariectomized mice. This population is enriched for cells bearing the endothelial marker CD31 (10.3% of CD90- CD45- and 97.8% CD90+ CD45- by flow cytometry). CD45- mTert-GFP+ cells also immunostained for the endothelial marker vonWillebrand factor. These results suggest that the endometrial epithelium and vasculature are foci of stem/progenitor activity and provide a system to investigate molecular mechanisms involved in endometrial regeneration and repair. limitations, reasons for caution: The stem/progenitor activity of endometrial mTert-GFP+ cells needs to be experimentally verified. wider implications of the findings: The identification and characterization of mTert-expressing progenitor cells in the mouse will facilitate the identification of equivalent populations in the human endometrium that are likely to be involved in endometrial function, fertility and disease. 

Large-scale data: Not applicable. 

Study funding and competing interest(s): This study was funded by National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) of Australia grants (1085435, C.E.G., J.A.D.), 1021127 (C.E.G.), NHMRC Senior Research Fellowship (1042298, C.E.G.), the Victorian Infrastructure Support Program, U.S. National Institutes of Health grant R01 DK084056 (D.T.B.) and the Harvard StemCell Institute (D.T.B.). The authors have no conflicts of interest to declare.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)272-284
Number of pages13
JournalMolecular Human Reproduction
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2016


  • Endometrium
  • Endothelial
  • Epithelial
  • Leucocyte
  • Mesenchymal stem cell
  • Ovariectomy
  • Progenitor
  • Regeneration
  • Stromal
  • Telomerase

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