Developmental expression of the cyclo-oxygenase-1 and cyclo-oxygenase-2 genes in the peri-implantation mouse uterus and their differential regulation by the blastocyst and ovarian steroids


    Cyclo-oxygenase (COX) is a rate-limiting enzyme that converts arachidonic acid to prostaglandins (PGs) and exists in two isoforms, COX-1 and COX-2. In the rodent, increased uterine vascular permeability at sites of blastocyst apposition is one of the earliest prerequisite events in the implantation process. This event is preceded by generalized uterine edema and luminal closure, and coincides with the initial attachment reaction between the trophectoderm and luminal epithelium. Vasoactive PGs are implicated in these processes. Here we demonstrate that COX genes are differentially regulated in the peri-implantation mouse uterus. During the preimplantation period (days 1–4), the COX-1 gene was expressed in the uterine epithelium mainly on day 4 until the initiation of attachment reaction in the evening after which the expression was downregulated. This COX-1 expression coincides with the generalized uterine edema required for luminal closure. In contrast, the COX-2 gene was expressed in the luminal epithelium and subepithelial stromal cells at the anti-mesometrial pole exclusively surrounding the blastocyst at the time of attachment reaction on day 4 and persisted through the morning of day 5. This uterine gene was not expressed at the sites of blastocyst apposition during progesterone (P4) treated delayed implantation, but was readily induced in the uterus surrounding the activated blastocysts after termination of the delay by estradiol-17β (E2). The results suggest that PG synthesis catalyzed by COX-2 is important for localized increased uterine vascular permeability and attachment reaction. The COX-1 gene that was downregulated from the time of attachment reaction on day 4 was again expressed in the mesometrial and anti-mesometrial secondary decidual beds on days 7 and 8. These results suggest that PGs generated by COX-1 are involved in decidualization and/or continued localized endometrial vascular permeability observed during this period. In contrast, the COX-2 gene, expressed at the anti-mesometrial pole on days 4 and 5, switched its expression to the mesometrial pole from day 6 onward. These results suggest that PGs produced at this site by COX-2 are involved in angiogenesis for the establishment of placenta. In the ovariectomized mice, the COX-1 gene was induced in the epithelium by a combined treatment with P4 and E2. However, P4 and/or E2 treatments failed to influence the uterine COX-2 gene. Overall, the results suggest that the uterine COX-1 gene is influenced by ovarian steroids, while the COX-2 gene is regulated by the implanting blastocyst during early pregnancy.

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