This is the first study to detail the mechanism by which the steroid hormone estrogen spurs cell differentiation and blood-vessel growth in the uterus during pregnancy, the researchers report.
The findings, from researchers at the University of Illinois, Emory University, Baylor College of Medicine and New York University, appear in the journal Development.
Connexin 43 (Cx43) belongs to a family of proteins that form junctions between cells that regulate the flow of ions and small signaling molecules from cell to cell. At the time of embryo implantation, this gap junction protein is essential to the rapid growth of new blood vessels needed to support the development of the embryo and allow it to implant in the uterine wall, the researchers discovered.
The researchers chose to study Cx43 after analyzing genes that are activated in the presence of estrogen in uterine cells. They found that Cx43 was prominent among the genes whose expression was increased in cells after exposure to estrogen.
University of Illinois veterinary biosciences doctoral student Mary Laws studied the role of Cx43 in pregnant mice and in human endometrial cells. By deleting the Cx43 gene in the uterus immediately after pregnancy in mice, a technique developed by researchers at Baylor, Laws was able to reliably prevent implantation of the embryo in the uterus.
In human endometrial cells (provided by co-author Robert Taylor of Emory University), Cx43 enhanced the differentiation of cells that make up the stromal tissue of the uterus. These cells produce factors that promote the growth of new blood vessels.
One of the factors secreted by the endometrial cells, vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), is essential to angiogenesis. In the absence of Cx43, Laws found, the cells failed to differentiate or to produce enough VEGF to spur blood vessel growth.
“The formation of these new blood vessels is extremely critical for embryonic growth at this stage of pregnancy, when the embryo has begun to invade into the uterine tissue, but has yet to make a connection to the placenta where it ultimately gets its nutrients,” said Illinois veterinary biosciences professor Indrani Bagchi, corresponding author on the study. “I think this is the first animal model that shows that disruption of one particular molecule or gene leads to a defect in uterine angiogenesis.”
The findings have important implications for early pregnancy loss and female infertility, she said.
“A fundamental aspect of female reproductive biology is how these hormones signal in uterine tissue in order to support the pregnancy,” said molecular and integrative physiology professor Milan Bagchi, an author on the study. “One of our major goals is to identify the genes that are regulated by estrogen and progesterone precisely at the time when the embryo implants in the uterine wall.”
“Connexin 43 has been shown to be in the uterus in many animal systems – cows and pigs and rodents and humans,” Laws said. “But this is the first time that it’s been shown to be critical for pregnancy.”
This research was sponsored by the recently established Center for Research in Reproduction and Infertility, which is funded by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.
Based at the U. of I., the center also draws expertise from Emory University Medical School and Baylor College of Medicine.Editor’s note: To reach Indrani Bagchi, call 217-333-7986; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Diana Yates | University of Illinois
Turning carbon dioxide into liquid fuel
06.08.2020 | DOE/Argonne National Laboratory
Tellurium makes the difference
06.08.2020 | Friedrich-Schiller-Universität Jena
Scientists at the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT have come up with a striking new addition to contact stamping technologies in the ERDF research project ScanCut. In collaboration with industry partners from North Rhine-Westphalia, the Aachen-based team of researchers developed a hybrid manufacturing process for the laser cutting of thin-walled metal strips. This new process makes it possible to fabricate even the tiniest details of contact parts in an eco-friendly, high-precision and efficient manner.
Plug connectors are tiny and, at first glance, unremarkable – yet modern vehicles would be unable to function without them. Several thousand plug connectors...
An international research team has found a new approach that may be able to reduce bone loss in osteoporosis and maintain bone health.
Osteoporosis is the most common age-related bone disease which affects hundreds of millions of individuals worldwide. It is estimated that one in three women...
Traditional single-cell sequencing methods help to reveal insights about cellular differences and functions - but they do this with static snapshots only...
“Core-shell” clusters pave the way for new efficient nanomaterials that make catalysts, magnetic and laser sensors or measuring devices for detecting electromagnetic radiation more efficient.
Whether in innovative high-tech materials, more powerful computer chips, pharmaceuticals or in the field of renewable energies, nanoparticles – smallest...
An international research team with Prof. Cornelia Denz from the Institute of Applied Physics at the University of Münster develop for the first time light fields using caustics that do not change during propagation. With the new method, the physicists cleverly exploit light structures that can be seen in rainbows or when light is transmitted through drinking glasses.
Modern applications as high resolution microsopy or micro- or nanoscale material processing require customized laser beams that do not change during...
23.07.2020 | Event News
21.07.2020 | Event News
07.07.2020 | Event News
06.08.2020 | Earth Sciences
06.08.2020 | Power and Electrical Engineering
06.08.2020 | Life Sciences