Publications by authors named "Milan K Bagchi"

64 Publications

A hypoxia-induced Rab pathway regulates embryo implantation by controlled trafficking of secretory granules.

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 2020 06 8;117(25):14532-14542. Epub 2020 Jun 8.

Department of Comparative Biosciences, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, IL 61802

Implantation is initiated when an embryo attaches to the uterine luminal epithelium and subsequently penetrates into the underlying stroma to firmly embed in the endometrium. These events are followed by the formation of an extensive vascular network in the stroma that supports embryonic growth and ensures successful implantation. Interestingly, in many mammalian species, these processes of early pregnancy occur in a hypoxic environment. However, the mechanisms underlying maternal adaptation to hypoxia during early pregnancy remain unclear. In this study, using a knockout mouse model, we show that the transcription factor hypoxia-inducible factor 2 alpha (Hif2α), which is induced in subluminal stromal cells at the time of implantation, plays a crucial role during early pregnancy. Indeed, when preimplantation endometrial stromal cells are exposed to hypoxic conditions in vitro, we observed a striking enhancement in HIF2α expression. Further studies revealed that HIF2α regulates the expression of several metabolic and protein trafficking factors, including RAB27B, at the onset of implantation. RAB27B is a member of the Rab family of GTPases that allows controlled release of secretory granules. These granules are involved in trafficking MMP-9 from the stroma to the epithelium to promote luminal epithelial remodeling during embryo invasion. As pregnancy progresses, the HIF2α-RAB27B pathway additionally mediates crosstalk between stromal and endothelial cells via VEGF granules, developing the vascular network critical for establishing pregnancy. Collectively, our study provides insights into the intercellular communication mechanisms that operate during adaptation to hypoxia, which is essential for embryo implantation and establishment of pregnancy.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1073/pnas.2000810117DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7321991PMC
June 2020

Insulin Signaling Via Progesterone-Regulated Insulin Receptor Substrate 2 is Critical for Human Uterine Decidualization.

Endocrinology 2020 Jan;161(1)

Department of Molecular and Integrative Physiology, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, Illinois.

Decidualization, the process by which fibroblastic human endometrial stromal cells (HESC) differentiate into secretory decidual cells, is a critical event during the establishment of pregnancy. It is dependent on the steroid hormone progesterone acting through the nuclear progesterone receptor (PR). Previously, we identified insulin receptor substrate 2 (IRS2) as a factor that is directly regulated by PR during decidualization. IRS2 is an adaptor protein that functionally links receptor tyrosine kinases, such as insulin receptor (IR) and insulin-like growth factor 1 receptor (IGF1R), and their downstream effectors. IRS2 expression was induced in HESC during in vitro decidualization and siRNA-mediated downregulation of IRS2 transcripts resulted in attenuation of this process. Further use of siRNAs targeted to IR or IGF1R transcripts showed that downregulation of IR, but not IGF1R, led to impaired decidualization. Loss of IRS2 transcripts in HESC suppressed phosphorylation of both ERK1/2 and AKT, downstream effectors of insulin signaling, which mediate gene expression associated with decidualization and regulate glucose uptake. Indeed, downregulation of IRS2 resulted in reduced expression and membrane localization of the glucose transporters GLUT1 and GLUT4, resulting in lowered glucose uptake during stromal decidualization. Collectively, these data suggest that the PR-regulated expression of IRS2 is necessary for proper insulin signaling for controlling gene expression and glucose utilization, which critically support the decidualization process to facilitate pregnancy. This study provides new insight into the mechanisms by which steroid hormone signaling intersects with insulin signaling in the uterus during decidualization, which has important implications for pregnancy complications associated with insulin resistance and infertility.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1210/endocr/bqz021DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6986554PMC
January 2020

Msx Homeobox Genes Act Downstream of BMP2 to Regulate Endometrial Decidualization in Mice and in Humans.

Endocrinology 2019 07;160(7):1631-1644

Department of Comparative Biosciences, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, Illinois.

Endometrial stromal cells differentiate to form decidual cells in a process known as decidualization, which is critical for embryo implantation and successful establishment of pregnancy. We previously reported that bone morphogenetic protein 2 (BMP2) mediates uterine stromal cell differentiation in mice and in humans. To identify the downstream target(s) of BMP2 signaling during decidualization, we performed gene-expression profiling of mouse uterine stromal cells, treated or not treated with recombinant BMP2. Our studies revealed that expression of Msx2, a member of the mammalian Msx homeobox gene family, was markedly upregulated in response to exogenous BMP2. Interestingly, conditional ablation of Msx2 in the uterus failed to prevent a decidual phenotype, presumably because of functional compensation of Msx2 by Msx1, a closely related member of the Msx family. Indeed, in Msx2-null uteri, the level of Msx1 expression in the stromal cells was markedly elevated. When conditional, tissue-specific ablation of both Msx1 and Msx2 was accomplished in the mouse uterus, a dramatically impaired decidual response was observed. In the absence of both Msx1 and Msx2, uterine stromal cells were able to proliferate, but they failed to undergo terminal differentiation. In parallel experiments, addition of BMP2 to human endometrial stromal cell cultures led to a robust enhancement of MSX1 and MSX2 expression and stimulated the differentiation process. Attenuation of MSX1 and MSX2 expression by small interfering RNAs greatly reduced human stromal differentiation in vitro, indicating a conservation of their roles as key mediators of BMP2-induced decidualization in mice and women.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1210/en.2019-00131DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6591014PMC
July 2019

Chronic Exposure of Mice to Bisphenol-A Alters Uterine Fibroblast Growth Factor Signaling and Leads to Aberrant Epithelial Proliferation.

Endocrinology 2019 05;160(5):1234-1246

Department of Molecular and Integrative Physiology, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, Illinois.

Uterine epithelial proliferation is regulated in a paracrine manner by a complex interplay between estrogen (E) and progesterone (P) signaling, in which E stimulates proliferation and P inhibits it. Perturbation of steroid hormone signaling within the uterine milieu could contribute to the development of endometrial hyperplasia and cancer. It is well established that bisphenol-A (BPA) is an endocrine-disrupting chemical with weak estrogenic effects, although little is known about how it affects steroid hormone signaling in the adult uterus. Because BPA acts as a weak E, we hypothesized that chronic exposure to BPA would create an imbalance between E and P signaling and cause changes in the uterus, such as aberrant epithelial proliferation. Indeed, exposure to an environmentally relevant dose of BPA had a uterotrophic affect. BPA-treated mice showed increased proliferation, notably in the glandular epithelium, which are sites of origin for endometrial hyperplasia and cancer. Increased proliferation appeared to be mediated through a similar mechanism as E-induced proliferation, via activation of the fibroblast growth factor receptor pathway and phosphorylation of the ERK1/2 mitogen-activated protein kinases in the epithelium. Interestingly, BPA reduced expression of heart and neural crest derivatives expressed 2 (HAND2), a known mediator of the antiproliferative effects of P. BPA also increased methylation of a CpG island in the Hand2 gene promoter, suggesting that BPA may promote epithelial proliferation through epigenetic silencing of antiproliferative factors like HAND2. Collectively, these findings establish that chronic exposure to BPA impairs steroid hormone signaling in the mouse uterus, and may contribute to the pathogenesis of uterine hyperplasia and cancer.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1210/en.2018-00872DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6482033PMC
May 2019

Bisphenol A and Phthalates Modulate Peritoneal Macrophage Function in Female Mice Involving SYMD2-H3K36 Dimethylation.

Endocrinology 2018 05;159(5):2216-2228

Department of Comparative Biosciences, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, Illinois.

Ample evidence suggests that environmental and occupational exposure to bisphenol A (BPA) and phthalate, two chemicals widely used in the plastics industry, disturbs homeostasis of innate immunity and causes inflammatory diseases. However, the underlying molecular mechanisms of these toxicants in the regulation of macrophage inflammatory functions remain poorly understood. In this study, we addressed the effect of chronic exposure to BPA or phthalate at levels relevant to human exposure, either in vitro or in vivo, on the inflammatory reprograming of peritoneal macrophages. Our studies revealed that BPA and phthalates adversely affected expression levels of the proinflammatory cytokines and mediators in response to lipopolysaccharide stimulation. Exposure to these toxicants also affected gene expression of scavenger receptors and phagocytic capacity of peritoneal macrophages. Our studies revealed that the epigenetic inhibitors differentially modulated target gene expression in these cells. Further analysis revealed that certain histone modification enzymes were aberrantly expressed in response to BPA or phthalate exposure, leading to alteration in the levels of H3K36 acetylation and dimethylation, two chromatin modifications that are critical for transcriptional efficacy and accuracy. Our results further revealed that silencing of H3K36-specific methyltransferase Smyd2 expression or inhibition of SMYD2 enzymatic activity attenuated H3K36 dimethylation and enhanced interleukin-6 and tumor necrosis factor-α expression but dampened the phagocytic capacity of peritoneal macrophages. In summary, our results indicate that peritoneal macrophages are vulnerable to BPA or phthalate at levels relevant to human exposure. These environmental toxicants affect phenotypic programming of macrophages via epigenetic mechanisms involving SMYD2-mediated H3K36 modification.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1210/en.2017-03000DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5920315PMC
May 2018

Aberrantly high expression of the CUB and zona pellucida-like domain-containing protein 1 (CUZD1) in mammary epithelium leads to breast tumorigenesis.

J Biol Chem 2018 02 10;293(8):2850-2864. Epub 2018 Jan 10.

Department of Molecular and Integrative Physiology. Electronic address:

The peptide hormone prolactin (PRL) and certain members of the epidermal growth factor (EGF) family play central roles in mammary gland development and physiology, and their dysregulation has been implicated in mammary tumorigenesis. Our recent studies have revealed that the CUB and zona pellucida-like domain-containing protein 1 (CUZD1) is a critical factor for PRL-mediated activation of the transcription factor STAT5 in mouse mammary epithelium. Of note, CUZD1 controls production of a specific subset of the EGF family growth factors and consequent activation of their receptors. Here, we found that consistent with this finding, CUZD1 overexpression in non-transformed mammary epithelial HC11 cells increases their proliferation and induces tumorigenic characteristics in these cells. When introduced orthotopically in mouse mammary glands, these cells formed adenocarcinomas, exhibiting elevated levels of STAT5 phosphorylation and activation of the EGF signaling pathway. Selective blockade of STAT5 phosphorylation by pimozide, a small-molecule inhibitor, markedly reduced the production of the EGF family growth factors and inhibited PRL-induced tumor cell proliferation Pimozide administration to mice also suppressed CUZD1-driven mammary tumorigenesis Analysis of human MCF7 breast cancer cells indicated that CUZD1 controls the production of the same subset of EGF family members in these cells as in the mouse. Moreover, pimozide treatment reduced the proliferation of these cancer cells. Collectively, these findings indicate that overexpression of CUZD1, a regulator of growth factor pathways controlled by PRL and STAT5, promotes mammary tumorigenesis. Blockade of the STAT5 signaling pathway downstream of CUZD1 may offer a therapeutic strategy for managing these breast tumors.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1074/jbc.RA117.000162DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5827451PMC
February 2018

Characterization of Molecular Changes in Endometrium Associated With Chronic Use of Progesterone Receptor Modulators: Ulipristal Acetate Versus Mifepristone.

Reprod Sci 2018 03 14;25(3):320-328. Epub 2017 Dec 14.

1 Department of Comparative Biosciences, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, IL, USA.

Ulipristal acetate (UPA) is a selective progesterone receptor modulator (PRM), which is used as an emergency contraceptive in women. Recent studies demonstrated the efficacy of an UPA contraceptive vaginal ring (UPA-CVR) as a blocker of ovulation. However, the endometrium of women exposed to UPA over a 6-month period display glandular changes, termed PRM-associated endometrial changes (PAECs). We, therefore, investigated whether UPA-induced PAECs are associated with altered expression of the transcription factor heart- and neural crest derivatives-expressed protein 2 (HAND2) whose downregulation is observed in endometrial epithelial hyperplasia and cancer. Our results showed that while exposure to mifepristone, a well-known PRM, leads to suppression of endometrial HAND2 expression, long-term exposure to UPA-CVR did not cause downregulation of this marker. Further studies, using human primary endometrial stromal cells, confirmed that whereas mifepristone-mediated suppression of HAND2 elevated the levels of its downstream target fibroblast growth factor 18, UPA did not significantly alter the expression of this growth factor. A rationale for the differential regulation of HAND2 by these PRMs was provided by our observation that mifepristone-bound progesterone receptors turn over at a faster rate than those bound to UPA. Collectively, these results support the selective effects of different PRMs and indicate that chronic exposure to UPA does not alter the HAND2 pathway whose dysregulation is linked to complex atypical endometrial hyperplasia and cancer. The results from this study involving a limited number of clinical samples should pave the way for a larger study to determine the safety of UPA for long-term use.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/1933719117746764DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6343220PMC
March 2018

IL-1β Inhibits Connexin 43 and Disrupts Decidualization of Human Endometrial Stromal Cells Through ERK1/2 and p38 MAP Kinase.

Endocrinology 2017 12;158(12):4270-4285

Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Wake Forest School of Medicine.

Inflammation can interfere with endometrial receptivity. We examined how interleukin 1β (IL-1β) affects expression of the uterine gap junction protein connexin 43 (Cx43), which is known to be critical for embryonic implantation. We used an in vitro model of human endometrial stromal cells (ESCs), Western blotting, and a combination of validated, selective kinase inhibitors to evaluate five canonical IL-1β signaling pathways. Cx43 and two other markers of ESC differentiation (prolactin and VEGF) were inhibited predominantly via IL-1β-activated ERK1/2 and p38 MAP kinase cascades. The findings were corroborated using small interfering RNA to silence critical genes in either pathway. By contrast, upregulation of endogenous pro-IL-1α and pro-IL-1β following recombinant IL-1β treatment was mediated via the Jun N-terminal kinase pathway. The clinicopharmacological significance of our findings is that multiple signaling cascades may need to be neutralized to reverse deleterious effects of IL-1β on human endometrial function.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1210/en.2017-00495DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5711380PMC
December 2017

CUZD1 is a critical mediator of the JAK/STAT5 signaling pathway that controls mammary gland development during pregnancy.

PLoS Genet 2017 Mar 9;13(3):e1006654. Epub 2017 Mar 9.

Department of Molecular and Integrative Physiology, University of Illinois Urbana/Champaign, Urbana, IL, United States of America.

In the mammary gland, genetic circuits controlled by estrogen, progesterone, and prolactin, act in concert with pathways regulated by members of the epidermal growth factor family to orchestrate growth and morphogenesis during puberty, pregnancy and lactation. However, the precise mechanisms underlying the crosstalk between the hormonal and growth factor pathways remain poorly understood. We have identified the CUB and zona pellucida-like domain-containing protein 1 (CUZD1), expressed in mammary ductal and alveolar epithelium, as a novel mediator of mammary gland proliferation and differentiation during pregnancy and lactation. Cuzd1-null mice exhibited a striking impairment in mammary ductal branching and alveolar development during pregnancy, resulting in a subsequent defect in lactation. Gene expression profiling of mammary epithelium revealed that CUZD1 regulates the expression of a subset of the EGF family growth factors, epiregulin, neuregulin-1, and epigen, which act in an autocrine fashion to activate ErbB1 and ErbB4 receptors. Proteomic studies further revealed that CUZD1 interacts with a complex containing JAK1/JAK2 and STAT5, downstream transducers of prolactin signaling in the mammary gland. In the absence of CUZD1, STAT5 phosphorylation in the mammary epithelium during alveologenesis was abolished. Conversely, elevated expression of Cuzd1 in mammary epithelial cells stimulated prolactin-induced phosphorylation and nuclear translocation of STAT5. Chromatin immunoprecipitation confirmed co-occupancy of phosphorylated STAT5 and CUZD1 in the regulatory regions of epiregulin, a potential regulator of epithelial proliferation, and whey acidic protein, a marker of epithelial differentiation. Collectively, these findings suggest that CUZD1 plays a critical role in prolactin-induced JAK/STAT5 signaling that controls the expression of key STAT5 target genes involved in mammary epithelial proliferation and differentiation during alveolar development.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pgen.1006654DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5363987PMC
March 2017

Chronic exposure to bisphenol a impairs progesterone receptor-mediated signaling in the uterus during early pregnancy.

Receptors Clin Investig 2016 21;3(3). Epub 2016 Jul 21.

Department of Comparative Biosciences, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, Illinois 61802, USA.

Environmental and occupational exposure to endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) is a major threat to female reproductive health. Bisphenol A (BPA), an environmental toxicant that is commonly found in polycarbonate plastics and epoxy resins, has received much attention due to its estrogenic activity and high risk of chronic exposure in human. Whereas BPA has been linked to infertility and recurrent miscarriage in women, the impact of its exposure on uterine function during early pregnancy remains unclear. In a recent publication in , we demonstrated that prolonged exposure to an environmental relevant dose of BPA disrupts progesterone receptor-regulated uterine functions, thus affecting uterine receptivity for embryo implantation and decidua morphogenesis, two critical events for establishment and maintenance of early pregnancy. In particular we reported a marked impairment of progesterone receptor (PGR) expression and its downstream effector HAND2 in the uterine stromal cells in response to chronic BPA exposure. In an earlier study we have shown that HAND2 controls embryo implantation by repressing fibroblast growth factor (FGF) expression and the MAP kinase signaling pathway, thus inhibiting epithelial proliferation. Interestingly we observed that downregulation of PGR and HAND2 expression in uterine stroma upon BPA exposure was associated with an enhanced activation of FGFR and MAPK signaling, aberrant proliferation, and lack of uterine receptivity in the epithelium. In addition, the proliferation and differentiation of endometrial stromal cells to decidual cells, an event critical for the maintenance of early pregnancy, was severely compromised in response to BPA. This research highlight will provide an overview of our findings and discuss the potential mechanisms by which chronic BPA impairs PGR-HAND2 pathway and adversely affects implantation and the establishment of pregnancy.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.14800/rci.1369DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5321573PMC
July 2016

Progesterone Alleviates Endometriosis via Inhibition of Uterine Cell Proliferation, Inflammation and Angiogenesis in an Immunocompetent Mouse Model.

PLoS One 2016 24;11(10):e0165347. Epub 2016 Oct 24.

Department of Comparative Biosciences, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, Illinois, United States of America.

Endometriosis, defined as growth of the endometrial cells outside the uterus, is an inflammatory disorder that is associated with chronic pelvic pain and infertility in women of childbearing age. Although the estrogen-dependence of endometriosis is well known, the role of progesterone in development of this disease remains poorly understood. In this study, we developed a disease model in which endometriosis was induced in the peritoneal cavities of immunocompetent female mice, and maintained with exogenous estrogen. The endometriosis-like lesions that were identified at a variety of ectopic locations exhibited abundant blood supply and extensive adhesions. Histological examination revealed that these lesions had a well-organized endometrial architecture and fibrotic response, resembling those recovered from clinical patients. In addition, an extensive proliferation, inflammatory response, and loss of estrogen receptor alpha (ERα) and progesterone receptor (PR) expression were also observed in these lesions. Interestingly, administration of progesterone before, but not after, lesion induction suppressed lesion expansion and maintained ERα and PR expressions. These progesterone-pretreated lesions exhibited attenuation in KI67, CD31, and pro-inflammatory cytokine expression as well as macrophage infiltration, indicating that progesterone ameliorates endometriosis progression by inhibiting cell proliferation, inflammation and neovascularization. Our studies further showed that suppression of global DNA methylation by application of DNA methyltransferase inhibitor to female mice bearing ectopic lesions restrained lesion expansion and restored ERα and PR expression in eutopic endometrium and ectopic lesions. These results indicate that epigenetic regulation of target gene expression via DNA methylation contributes, at least in part, to progesterone resistance in endometriosis.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0165347PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5077092PMC
June 2017

Endometrial Stromal Decidualization Responds Reversibly to Hormone Stimulation and Withdrawal.

Endocrinology 2016 06 1;157(6):2432-46. Epub 2016 Apr 1.

Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology (J.Y., S.L.B., E.B.J.-M., R.N.T.), Clinical and Translational Science Institute (J.Y., R.N.T.), and Molecular Medicine and Translational Sciences Program (R.N.T.), Wake Forest School of Medicine, Winston-Salem, North Carolina 27157; Department of Gynecology and Obstetrics (N.S.), Emory University School of Medicine, Atlanta, Georgia 30322; and Departments of Comparative Biosciences (I.C.B.) and Molecular and Integrative Physiology (M.K.B.), University of Illinois Urbana/Champaign, Illinois 61801.

Human endometrial stromal decidualization is required for embryo receptivity, angiogenesis, and placentation. Previous studies from our laboratories established that connexin (Cx)-43 critically regulates endometrial stromal cell (ESC) differentiation, whereas gap junction blockade prevents it. The current study evaluated the plasticity of ESC morphology and Cx43 expression, as well as other biochemical markers of cell differentiation, in response to decidualizing hormones. Primary human ESC cultures were exposed to 10 nM estradiol, 100 nM progesterone, and 0.5 mM cAMP for up to 14 days, followed by hormone withdrawal for 14 days, mimicking a biphasic ovulatory cycle. Reversible differentiation was documented by characteristic changes in cell shape. Cx43 was reversibly up- and down-regulated after the estradiol, progesterone, and cAMP treatment and withdrawal, respectively, paralleled by fluctuations in prolactin, vascular endothelial growth factor, IL-11, and glycodelin secretion. Markers of mesenchymal-epithelial transition (MET), and its counterpart epithelial-mesenchymal transition, followed reciprocal patterns corresponding to the morphological changes. Incubation in the presence of 18α-glycyrrhetinic acid, an inhibitor of gap junctions, partially reversed the expression of decidualization and MET markers. In the absence of hormones, Cx43 overexpression promoted increases in vascular endothelial growth factor and IL-11 secretion, up-regulated MET markers, and reduced N-cadherin, an epithelial-mesenchymal transition marker. The combined results support the hypothesis that Cx43-containing gap junctions and endocrine factors cooperate to regulate selected biomarkers of stromal decidualization and MET and suggest roles for both phenomena in endometrial preparation for embryonic receptivity.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1210/en.2015-1942DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4891781PMC
June 2016

Chronic Exposure to Bisphenol A Affects Uterine Function During Early Pregnancy in Mice.

Endocrinology 2016 05 29;157(5):1764-74. Epub 2016 Mar 29.

Department of Comparative Biosciences (Q.L., J.D., A.K., J.A.F., I.C.B.) and Molecular and Integrative Physiology (M.K.B.), University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, Illinois 61802.

Environmental and occupational exposure to bisphenol A (BPA), a chemical widely used in polycarbonate plastics and epoxy resins, has received much attention in female reproductive health due to its widespread toxic effects. Although BPA has been linked to infertility and recurrent miscarriage in women, the impact of its exposure on uterine function during early pregnancy remains unclear. In this study, we addressed the effect of prolonged exposure to an environmental relevant dose of BPA on embryo implantation and establishment of pregnancy. Our studies revealed that treatment of mice with BPA led to improper endometrial epithelial and stromal functions thus affecting embryo implantation and establishment of pregnancy. Upon further analyses, we found that the expression of progesterone receptor (PGR) and its downstream target gene, HAND2 (heart and neural crest derivatives expressed 2), was markedly suppressed in BPA-exposed uterine tissues. Previous studies have shown that HAND2 controls embryo implantation by repressing fibroblast growth factor and the MAPK signaling pathways and inhibiting epithelial proliferation. Interestingly, we observed that down-regulation of PGR and HAND2 expression in uterine stroma upon BPA exposure was associated with enhanced activation of fibroblast growth factor and MAPK signaling in the epithelium, thus contributing to aberrant proliferation and lack of uterine receptivity. Further, the differentiation of endometrial stromal cells to decidual cells, an event critical for the establishment and maintenance of pregnancy, was severely compromised in response to BPA. In summary, our studies revealed that chronic exposure to BPA impairs PGR-HAND2 pathway and adversely affects implantation and the establishment of pregnancy.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1210/en.2015-2031DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4870880PMC
May 2016

Roles of Estrogen Receptor-α and the Coactivator MED1 During Human Endometrial Decidualization.

Mol Endocrinol 2016 Mar 5;30(3):302-13. Epub 2016 Feb 5.

Departments of Molecular and Integrative Physiology (H.S.K.O., M.K.B.) and Comparative Biosciences (A.D., I.C.B.), University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, Illinois 61801; and Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology (R.N.T.), Wake Forest School of Medicine, Winston-Salem, North Carolina 27157.

The steroid hormones 17β-estradiol and progesterone are critical regulators of endometrial stromal cell differentiation, known as decidualization, which is a prerequisite for successful establishment of pregnancy. The present study using primary human endometrial stromal cells (HESCs) addressed the role of estrogen receptor-α (ESR1) in decidualization. Knockdown of ESR1 transcripts by RNA interference led to a marked reduction in decidualization of HESCs. Gene expression profiling at an early stage of decidualization indicated that ESR1 negatively regulates several cell cycle regulatory factors, thereby suppressing the proliferation of HESCs as these cells enter the differentiation program. ESR1 also controls the expression of WNT4, FOXO1, and progesterone receptor (PGR), well-known mediators of decidualization. Whereas ESR1 knockdown strongly inhibited the expression of FOXO1 and WNT4 transcripts within 24 hours of the initiation of decidualization, PGR expression remained unaffected at this early time point. Our study also revealed a major role of cAMP signaling in influencing the function of ESR1 during decidualization. Using a proteomic approach, we discovered that the cAMP-dependent protein kinase A (PKA) phosphorylates Mediator 1 (MED1), a subunit of the mediator coactivator complex, during HESC differentiation. Using immunoprecipitation, we demonstrated that PKA-phosphorylated MED1 interacts with ESR1. The PKA-dependent phosphorylation of MED1 was also correlated with its enhanced recruitment to estrogen-responsive elements in the WNT4 gene. Knockdown of MED1 transcripts impaired the expression of ESR1-induced WNT4 and FOXO1 transcripts and blocked decidualization. Based on these findings, we conclude that modulation of ESR1-MED1 interactions by cAMP signaling plays a critical role in human decidualization.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1210/me.2015-1274DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4771698PMC
March 2016

Progesterone-Regulated Endometrial Factors Controlling Implantation.

Am J Reprod Immunol 2016 Mar 24;75(3):237-45. Epub 2016 Jan 24.

Department of Molecular and Integrative Physiology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, IL, USA.

The steroid hormone progesterone (P), acting via the progesterone receptor (PR) isoforms, PR-A and PR-B, exerts a profound influence on uterine functions during early gestation. In recent years, chromatin immunoprecipitation-sequencing in combination with microarray-based gene expression profiling analyses have revealed that the PR isoforms control a substantially large cistrome and transcriptome during endometrial differentiation in the human and the mouse. Genetically engineered mouse models have established that several PR-regulated genes, such as Ihh, Bmp2, Hoxa10, and Hand2, are essential for implantation and decidualization. PR-A and PR-B also collaborate with other transcription factors, such as FOS, JUN, C/EBPβ and STAT3, to regulate the expression of many target genes that functions in concert to properly control uterine epithelial proliferation, stromal differentiation, angiogenesis, and local immune response to render the uterus 'receptive' and allow embryo implantation. This review article highlights recent work describing the key PR-regulated pathways that govern critical uterine functions during establishment of pregnancy.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/aji.12473DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4754106PMC
March 2016

Multiple Beneficial Roles of Repressor of Estrogen Receptor Activity (REA) in Suppressing the Progression of Endometriosis.

Endocrinology 2016 Feb 14;157(2):900-12. Epub 2015 Dec 14.

Departments of Molecular and Integrative Physiology (Y.Z., Y.C., M.K.B., B.S.K.) and Chemistry (J.A.K.), University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, Illinois 61801; Department of Gynecology and Obstetrics (Y.K.), The Second Affiliated Hospital of Harbin Medical University, Harbin, Heilongjiang 150086, China; and Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology (R.N.T.), Wake Forest School of Medicine, Winston-Salem, North Carolina 27157.

Endometriosis is an estrogen-dependent, inflammation-driven gynecologic disorder in which endometrial tissue creates inflammatory lesions at extrauterine sites, leading to pelvic pain and impaired fertility. Although dysregulated estrogen receptor (ER) signaling has been implicated, understanding of this disease is incomplete and current therapies are of limited benefit. Using an immunocompetent syngeneic murine model, we used combinations of donor uterine tissue and/or recipient host mice with partial genetic deletion of the ER coregulator, repressor of ER activity (REA) (also known as prohibitin 2), to investigate roles of REA in the contributions of donor uterine tissue and host cell influences on endometriosis establishment and progression. Ectopic lesions derived from donor tissue with half the wild-type gene dosage of REA (REA(+/-)) grown in REA(+/-) hosts displayed enhanced proliferation, vascularization, and markedly increased neuron innervation and inflammatory responses, including elevated cytokine production, nuclear factor kappa B activation, cyclooxygenase-2 expression, and immune cell infiltration. Although lesion progression was greatest when REA was reduced in both donor tissue and host animals, other donor/host combinations indicated that distinct stimulatory inputs were derived from ectopic tissue (proliferative signals) and host cells (inflammatory signals). Importantly, depletion of REA in primary human endometriotic stromal cells led to elevated proliferation and expression of cell cycle regulators. Notably, REA was significantly lower in human endometriotic tissue versus normal human endometrium. Thus, REA modulates cross talk among multiple cell types in the uterine tissue and host background, serving as a brake on the estradiol-ER axis and restraining multiple aspects that contribute to the pathologic progression of endometriosis.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1210/en.2015-1324DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4733120PMC
February 2016

Rac1 Regulates Endometrial Secretory Function to Control Placental Development.

PLoS Genet 2015 Aug 25;11(8):e1005458. Epub 2015 Aug 25.

Department of Comparative Biosciences, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, Illinois, United States of America.

During placenta development, a succession of complex molecular and cellular interactions between the maternal endometrium and the developing embryo ensures reproductive success. The precise mechanisms regulating this maternal-fetal crosstalk remain unknown. Our study revealed that the expression of Rac1, a member of the Rho family of GTPases, is markedly elevated in mouse decidua on days 7 and 8 of gestation. To investigate its function in the uterus, we created mice bearing a conditional deletion of the Rac1 gene in uterine stromal cells. Ablation of Rac1 did not affect the formation of the decidua but led to fetal loss in mid gestation accompanied by extensive hemorrhage. To gain insights into the molecular pathways affected by the loss of Rac1, we performed gene expression profiling which revealed that Rac1 signaling regulates the expression of Rab27b, another GTPase that plays a key role in targeting vesicular trafficking. Consequently, the Rac1-null decidual cells failed to secrete vascular endothelial growth factor A, which is a critical regulator of decidual angiogenesis, and insulin-like growth factor binding protein 4, which regulates the bioavailability of insulin-like growth factors that promote proliferation and differentiation of trophoblast cell lineages in the ectoplacental cone. The lack of secretion of these key factors by Rac1-null decidua gave rise to impaired angiogenesis and dysregulated proliferation of trophoblast cells, which in turn results in overexpansion of the trophoblast giant cell lineage and disorganized placenta development. Further experiments revealed that RAC1, the human ortholog of Rac1, regulates the secretory activity of human endometrial stromal cells during decidualization, supporting the concept that this signaling G protein plays a central and conserved role in controlling endometrial secretory function. This study provides unique insights into the molecular mechanisms regulating endometrial secretions that mediate stromal-endothelial and stromal-trophoblast crosstalk critical for placenta development and establishment of pregnancy.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pgen.1005458DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4549291PMC
August 2015

Roles of progesterone receptor A and B isoforms during human endometrial decidualization.

Mol Endocrinol 2015 Jun 15;29(6):882-95. Epub 2015 Apr 15.

Departments of Molecular and Integrative Physiology (H.S.K., A.M.H., M.K.B.), Cell and Developmental Biology (L.J.S.), and Comparative Biosciences (I.C.B.), University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, Illinois 61801; and Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology (R.N.T.), Wake Forest University School of Medicine, Winston-Salem, North Carolina 27157.

Progesterone, acting through the progesterone receptors (PGRs), is one of the most critical regulators of endometrial differentiation, known as decidualization, which is a key step toward the establishment of pregnancy. Yet a long-standing unresolved issue in uterine biology is the precise roles played by the major PGR isoforms, PGR-A and PGR-B, during decidualization in the human. Our approach, expressing PGR-A and PGR-B individually after silencing endogenous PGRs in human endometrial stromal cells (HESCs), enabled the analysis of the roles of these isoforms separately as well as jointly. Chromatin immunoprecipitation-sequencing in combination with gene expression profiling revealed that PGR-B controls a substantially larger cistrome and transcriptome than PGR-A during HESC differentiation. Interestingly, PGR-B directly regulates the expression of PGR-A. De novo motif analysis indicated that, although the 2 isoforms bind to the same DNA sequence motif, there are both common and unique neighboring motifs where other transcription factors, such as FOSL1/2, JUN, C/EBPβ, and STAT3, bind and dictate the transcriptional activities of these isoforms. We found that PGR-A and PGR-B regulate overlapping as well as distinct sets of genes, many of which are known to be critical for decidualization and establishment of pregnancy. When PGR-A and PGR-B were coexpressed during HESC differentiation, PGR-B played a predominant role, although both isoforms influenced each other's transcriptional activity. This study revealed the gene networks that operate downstream of each PGR isoform to mediate critical functions, such as regulation of the cell cycle, angiogenesis, lysosomal activation, insulin receptor signaling, and apoptosis, during decidualization in the human.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1210/me.2014-1363DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4447642PMC
June 2015

Dual suppression of estrogenic and inflammatory activities for targeting of endometriosis.

Sci Transl Med 2015 Jan;7(271):271ra9

Department of Molecular and Integrative Physiology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, IL 61801, USA.

Estrogenic and inflammatory components play key roles in a broad range of diseases including endometriosis, a common estrogen-dependent gynecological disorder in which endometrial tissue creates inflammatory lesions at extrauterine sites, causing pelvic pain and reduced fertility. Current medical therapies focus primarily on reducing systemic levels of estrogens, but these are of limited effectiveness and have considerable side effects. We developed estrogen receptor (ER) ligands, chloroindazole (CLI) and oxabicycloheptene sulfonate (OBHS), which showed strong ER-dependent anti-inflammatory activity in a preclinical model of endometriosis that recapitulates the estrogen dependence and inflammatory responses of the disease in immunocompetent mice and in primary human endometriotic stromal cells in culture. Estrogen-dependent phenomena, including cell proliferation, cyst formation, vascularization, and lesion growth, were all arrested by CLI or OBHS, which prevented lesion expansion and also elicited regression of established lesions, suppressed inflammation, angiogenesis, and neurogenesis in the lesions, and interrupted crosstalk between lesion cells and infiltrating macrophages. Studies in ERα or ERβ knockout mice indicated that ERα is the major mediator of OBHS effectiveness and ERβ is dominant in CLI actions, implying involvement of both ERs in endometriosis. Neither ligand altered estrous cycling or fertility at doses that were effective for suppression of endometriosis. Hence, CLI and OBHS are able to restrain endometriosis by dual suppression of the estrogen-inflammatory axis. Our findings suggest that these compounds have the desired characteristics of preventive and therapeutic agents for clinical endometriosis and possibly other estrogen-driven and inflammation-promoted disorders.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1126/scitranslmed.3010626DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4790140PMC
January 2015

Estrogen-induced CCN1 is critical for establishment of endometriosis-like lesions in mice.

Mol Endocrinol 2014 Dec;28(12):1934-47

Departments of Molecular and Integrative Physiology (Y.Z., B.S.K., M.K.B.) and Comparative Biosciences (Q.L., I.C.B.), University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, Illinois 61801; Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics (L.F.L.), University of Illinois College of Medicine, Chicago, Illinois 60637; and Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology (R.N.T.), Wake Forest University School of Medicine, Winston-Salem, North Carolina 27157.

Endometriosis is a prevalent gynecological disorder in which endometrial tissue proliferates in extrauterine sites, such as the peritoneal cavity, eventually giving rise to painful, invasive lesions. Dysregulated estradiol (E) signaling has been implicated in this condition. However, the molecular mechanisms that operate downstream of E in the ectopic endometrial tissue are unknown. To investigate these mechanisms, we used a mouse model of endometriosis. Endometrial tissue from donor mice was surgically transplanted on the peritoneal surface of immunocompetent syngeneic recipient mice, leading to the establishment of cystic endometriosis-like lesions. Our studies revealed that treatment with E led to an approximately 3-fold increase in the lesion size within a week of transplantation. E also caused a concomitant stimulation in the expression of connective tissue growth factor/Cyr61/Nov (CCN1), a secreted cysteine-rich matricellular protein, in the lesions. Interestingly, CCN1 is highly expressed in human ectopic endometriotic lesions. To address its role in endometriosis, endometrial tissue from Ccn1-null donor mice was transplanted in wild-type recipient mice. The resulting ectopic lesions were reduced up to 75% in size compared with wild-type lesions due to diminished cell proliferation and cyst formation. Notably, loss of CCN1 also disrupted the development of vascular networks in the ectopic lesions and reduced the expression of several angiogenic factors, such as vascular endothelial growth factor-A and vascular endothelial growth factor-C. These results suggest that CCN1, acting downstream of E, critically controls cell proliferation and neovascularization, which support the growth and survival of endometriotic tissue at ectopic sites. Blockade of CCN1 signaling during the early stages of lesion establishment may provide a therapeutic avenue to control endometriosis.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1210/me.2014-1080DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4250364PMC
December 2014

Minireview: Steroid-regulated paracrine mechanisms controlling implantation.

Mol Endocrinol 2014 Sep 22;28(9):1408-22. Epub 2014 Jul 22.

Departments of Molecular and Integrative Physiology (S.P., A.M.H., M.K.B.) and Comparative Biosciences (I.C.B.), University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, Illinois 61801.

Implantation is an essential process during establishment of pregnancy in mammals. It is initiated with the attachment of the blastocyst to a receptive uterine epithelium followed by its invasion into the stromal tissue. These events are profoundly regulated by the steroid hormones 17β-estradiol and progesterone. During the past several years, mouse models harboring conditional gene knockout mutations have become powerful tools for determining the functional roles of cellular factors involved in various aspects of implantation biology. Studies using these genetic models as well as primary cultures of human endometrial cells have established that the estrogen receptor α, the progesterone receptor, and their downstream target genes critically regulate uterine growth and differentiation, which in turn control embryo-endometrial interactions during early pregnancy. These studies have uncovered a diverse array of molecular cues, which are produced under the influence of estrogen receptor α and progesterone receptor and exchanged between the epithelial and stromal compartments of the uterus during the progressive phases of implantation. These paracrine signals are critical for acquisition of uterine receptivity and functional interactions with the embryo. This review highlights recent work describing paracrine mechanisms that govern steroid-regulated uterine epithelial-stromal dialogue during implantation and their roles in fertility and disease.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1210/me.2014-1074DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4154240PMC
September 2014

Role of uterine stromal-epithelial crosstalk in embryo implantation.

Int J Dev Biol 2014 ;58(2-4):139-46

Departments of Molecular and Integrative Physiology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, IL, USA.

Embryo implantation is a crucial step for successful pregnancy. Prior to implantation, the luminal epithelium undergoes steroid hormone-induced structural and functional changes that render it competent for embryo attachment. Subsequent invasion of the embryo into the maternal tissue triggers differentiation of the underlying stromal cells to form the decidua, a transient tissue which supports the developing embryo. Many molecular cues of both stromal and epithelial origin have been identified that are critical mediators of this process. An important aspect of uterine biology is the elaborate crosstalk that occurs between these tissue compartments during early pregnancy through expression of paracrine factors regulated by the steroid hormones estrogen and progesterone. Aberrant expression of these factors often leads to implantation failure and infertility. Genetically-engineered mouse models have been instrumental in elucidating what these paracrine factors are, what drives their expression, and what their effects are on neighboring cells. This review provides an overview of several well-characterized signaling pathways that span both epithelial and stromal compartments and their function during implantation in the mouse.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1387/ijdb.130348mbDOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4768910PMC
March 2015

Gap junction blockade induces apoptosis in human endometrial stromal cells.

Mol Reprod Dev 2014 Jul 14;81(7):666-75. Epub 2014 May 14.

Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Wake Forest School of Medicine, Winston-Salem, North California.

One of the most dynamic adult human tissues is the endometrium. Through coordinated, cyclical proliferation, differentiation, leukocyte recruitment, apoptosis, and desquamation, the uterine lining is expanded and shed monthly, unless pregnancy is established. Errors in these steps potentially cause endometrial dysfunction, abnormal uterine bleeding, failed embryonic implantation, infertility, or endometrial carcinoma. Our prior studies showed that gap junctions comprised of Gap junction alpha-1 (GJA1) protein, also known as connexin 43 (CX43), subunits are critical to endometrial stromal cell differentiation. The current studies were undertaken to explore the mechanism of endometrial dysfunction when gap junction intercellular communication (GJIC) is disrupted. Gap junction blockade by two distinct GJIC inhibitors, 18α-glycyrrhetinic acid (AGA) and octanol (OcOH), suppressed proliferation and induced apoptosis in endometrial stromal cells, as manifested by reduced biomarkers of cell viability, increased TUNEL staining, caspase-3 activation, sub-G1 chromosomal DNA complement, as well as shortened telomere length. Unexpectedly, we also observed that the chemical inhibitors blocked CX43 gene expression. Moreover, when endometrial stromal cells were induced to undergo hormonal decidualization, following a 7-day exposure to 10 nM 17β-estradiol + 100 nM progesterone + 0.5 mM dibutyryl cAMP, characteristic epithelioid changes in cell shape and secretion of prolactin were blunted in the presence of AGA or OcOH, recapitulating effects of RNA interference of CX43. Our findings indicate that endometrial stromal cell proliferation and maintenance of decidualized endometrial function are GJIC-dependent, and that disruption of gap junctions induces endometrial stromal cell apoptosis. These observations may have important implications for several common clinical endometrial pathologies.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/mrd.22334DOI Listing
July 2014

Dysregulated estrogen receptor signaling in the hypothalamic-pituitary-ovarian axis leads to ovarian epithelial tumorigenesis in mice.

PLoS Genet 2014 Mar 6;10(3):e1004230. Epub 2014 Mar 6.

Department of Comparative Biosciences, University of Illinois Urbana/Champaign, Urbana, Illinois, United States of America.

The etiology of ovarian epithelial cancer is poorly understood, mainly due to the lack of an appropriate experimental model for studying the onset and progression of this disease. We have created a mutant mouse model in which aberrant estrogen receptor alpha (ERα) signaling in the hypothalamic-pituitary-ovarian axis leads to ovarian epithelial tumorigenesis. In these mice, termed ERαd/d, the ERα gene was conditionally deleted in the anterior pituitary, but remained intact in the hypothalamus and the ovary. The loss of negative-feedback regulation by estrogen (E) at the level of the pituitary led to increased production of luteinizing hormone (LH) by this tissue. Hyperstimulation of the ovarian cells by LH resulted in elevated steroidogenesis, producing high circulating levels of steroid hormones, including E. The ERαd/d mice exhibited formation of palpable ovarian epithelial tumors starting at 5 months of age with 100% penetrance. By 15 months of age, 80% of ERαd/d mice die. Besides proliferating epithelial cells, these tumors also contained an expanded population of luteinized stromal cells, which acquire the ability to express P450 aromatase and synthesize E locally. In response to the elevated levels of E, the ERα signaling was accentuated in the ovarian epithelial cells of ERαd/d mice, triggering increased ERα-dependent gene expression, abnormal cell proliferation, and tumorigenesis. Consistent with these findings, treatment of ERαd/d mice with letrozole, an aromatase inhibitor, markedly reduced circulating E and ovarian tumor volume. We have, therefore, developed a unique animal model, which serves as a useful tool for exploring the involvement of E-dependent signaling pathways in ovarian epithelial tumorigenesis.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pgen.1004230DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3945209PMC
March 2014

Reduced connexin 43 in eutopic endometrium and cultured endometrial stromal cells from subjects with endometriosis.

Mol Hum Reprod 2014 Mar 22;20(3):260-70. Epub 2013 Nov 22.

Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Wake Forest School of Medicine, Winston-Salem, NC 27157-1066, USA.

Accumulating evidence indicates that reduced fecundity associated with endometriosis reflects a failure of embryonic receptivity. Microdomains composed of endometrial gap junctions, which facilitate cell-cell communication, may be implicated. Pharmacological or genetic inhibition of connexin (Cx) 43 block human endometrial cell differentiation in vitro and conditional uterine deletion of Cx43 alleles cause implantation failure in mice. The aim of this study was to determine whether women with endometriosis have reduced eutopic endometrial Cx43. Cx26 acted as a control. Endometrial biopsies were collected from age, race and cycle phase-matched women without (15 controls) or with histologically confirmed endometriosis (15 cases). Immunohistochemistry confirmed a predominant localization of Cx43 in the endometrial stroma, whereas Cx26 was confined to the epithelium. Cx43 immunostaining was reduced in eutopic biopsies of endometriosis subjects and western blotting of tissue lysates confirmed lower Cx43 levels in endometriosis cases, with Cx43/β-actin ratios=.4±1.5 in control and =1.2±0.3 in endometriosis biopsies (P<0.01). When endometrial stromal cells (ESC) were isolated from endometriosis cases, Cx43 levels and scrape loading-dye transfer were reduced by ∼45% compared with ESC from controls. In vitro decidualization of ESC derived from endometriosis versus control subjects resulted in lesser epithelioid transformation and a significantly reduced up-regulation of Cx43 protein (1.2±0.2- versus 1.7±0.4-fold, P<0.01). No changes in Cx26 were observed. While basal steady-state levels of Cx43 mRNA did not differ with respect to controls, ESC from endometriosis cases failed to manifest a response to hormone treatment in vitro. In summary, eutopic endometrial Cx43 concentrations in endometriosis cases were <50% those of controls in vivo and in vitro, functional gap junctions were reduced and hormone-induced Cx43 mRNA levels were blunted.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/molehr/gat087DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3925331PMC
March 2014

Role of DNA methylation and epigenetic silencing of HAND2 in endometrial cancer development.

PLoS Med 2013 Nov 12;10(11):e1001551. Epub 2013 Nov 12.

Department of Women's Cancer, UCL Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Institute for Women's Health, University College London, London, United Kingdom.

Background: Endometrial cancer incidence is continuing to rise in the wake of the current ageing and obesity epidemics. Much of the risk for endometrial cancer development is influenced by the environment and lifestyle. Accumulating evidence suggests that the epigenome serves as the interface between the genome and the environment and that hypermethylation of stem cell polycomb group target genes is an epigenetic hallmark of cancer. The objective of this study was to determine the functional role of epigenetic factors in endometrial cancer development.

Methods And Findings: Epigenome-wide methylation analysis of >27,000 CpG sites in endometrial cancer tissue samples (n = 64) and control samples (n = 23) revealed that HAND2 (a gene encoding a transcription factor expressed in the endometrial stroma) is one of the most commonly hypermethylated and silenced genes in endometrial cancer. A novel integrative epigenome-transcriptome-interactome analysis further revealed that HAND2 is the hub of the most highly ranked differential methylation hotspot in endometrial cancer. These findings were validated using candidate gene methylation analysis in multiple clinical sample sets of tissue samples from a total of 272 additional women. Increased HAND2 methylation was a feature of premalignant endometrial lesions and was seen to parallel a decrease in RNA and protein levels. Furthermore, women with high endometrial HAND2 methylation in their premalignant lesions were less likely to respond to progesterone treatment. HAND2 methylation analysis of endometrial secretions collected using high vaginal swabs taken from women with postmenopausal bleeding specifically identified those patients with early stage endometrial cancer with both high sensitivity and high specificity (receiver operating characteristics area under the curve = 0.91 for stage 1A and 0.97 for higher than stage 1A). Finally, mice harbouring a Hand2 knock-out specifically in their endometrium were shown to develop precancerous endometrial lesions with increasing age, and these lesions also demonstrated a lack of PTEN expression.

Conclusions: HAND2 methylation is a common and crucial molecular alteration in endometrial cancer that could potentially be employed as a biomarker for early detection of endometrial cancer and as a predictor of treatment response. The true clinical utility of HAND2 DNA methylation, however, requires further validation in prospective studies. Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001551DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3825654PMC
November 2013

STAT3 regulates uterine epithelial remodeling and epithelial-stromal crosstalk during implantation.

Mol Endocrinol 2013 Dec 7;27(12):1996-2012. Epub 2013 Oct 7.

PhD, Professor and Head, Department of Molecular and Integrative Physiology, 534 Burrill Hall, 407 South Goodwin, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, IL 61801.

Embryo implantation is regulated by a variety of endometrial factors, including cytokines, growth factors, and transcription factors. Earlier studies identified the leukemia inhibitory factor (LIF), a cytokine produced by uterine glands, as an essential regulator of implantation. LIF, acting via its cell surface receptor, activates the signal transducer and activator of transcription 3 (STAT3) in the uterine epithelial cells. However, the precise mechanism via which activated STAT3 promotes uterine function during implantation remains unknown. To identify the molecular pathways regulated by STAT3, we created SW(d/d) mice in which Stat3 gene is conditionally inactivated in uterine epithelium. The SW(d/d) mice are infertile due to a lack of embryo attachment to the uterine luminal epithelium and consequent implantation failure. Gene expression profiling of uterine epithelial cells of SW(d/d) mice revealed dysregulated expression of specific components of junctional complexes, including E-cadherin, α- and β-catenin, and several claudins, which critically regulate epithelial junctional integrity and embryo attachment. In addition, uteri of SW(d/d) mice exhibited markedly reduced stromal proliferation and differentiation, indicating that epithelial STAT3 controls stromal function via a paracrine mechanism. The stromal defect arose from a drastic reduction in the production of several members of the epidermal growth factor family in luminal epithelium of SW(d/d) uteri and the resulting lack of activation of epidermal growth factor receptor signaling and mitotic activity in the stromal cells. Collectively, our results uncovered an intricate molecular network operating downstream of STAT3 that regulates uterine epithelial junctional reorganization, and stromal proliferation, and differentiation, which are critical determinants of successful implantation.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1210/me.2013-1206DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3857199PMC
December 2013

The coregulator, repressor of estrogen receptor activity (REA), is a crucial regulator of the timing and magnitude of uterine decidualization.

Endocrinology 2013 Mar 7;154(3):1349-60. Epub 2013 Feb 7.

Department of Molecular and Integrative Physiology, University of Illinois and College of Medicine at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, IL 61801, USA.

Successful implantation and maintenance of pregnancy require the transformation of uterine endometrial stromal cells into distinct decidualized cells. Although estrogen and progesterone (P4) receptors are known to be essential for decidualization, the roles of steroid receptor coregulators in this process remain largely unknown. In this study, we have established a key role for the coregulator, repressor of estrogen receptor activity (REA), in the decidualization of human endometrial stromal cells (hESCs) in vitro and of the mouse uterus in vivo. Our studies revealed that the level of REA normally decreases to half as hESC decidualization proceeds and that uterine reduction of REA in transgenic heterozygous knockout mice or small interfering RNA knockdown of REA in hESC temporally accelerated and strongly enhanced the differentiation process, as indicated by changes in cell morphology and increased expression of biomarkers of decidualization, including P4 receptor. Findings in hESC cultured in vitro with estradiol, P4, and 8-bromo-cAMP over a 10-day period mirrored observations of enhanced decidualization response in transgenic mice with heterozygous deletion of REA. Importantly, gene expression and immunohistochemical analyses revealed changes in multiple components of the Janus kinase/signal transducer and activator of transcription pathway, including marked up-regulation of signal transducer and activator of transcription 3 and IL-11, master regulators of decidualization, and the down-regulation of several suppressor of cytokine signaling family members, upon reduction of REA. The findings highlight that REA physiologically restrains endometrial stromal cell decidualization, controlling the timing and magnitude of decidualization to enable proper coordination of uterine differentiation with concurrent embryo development that is essential for implantation and optimal fertility.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1210/en.2012-2026DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3578990PMC
March 2013

WNT4 acts downstream of BMP2 and functions via β-catenin signaling pathway to regulate human endometrial stromal cell differentiation.

Endocrinology 2013 Jan 9;154(1):446-57. Epub 2012 Nov 9.

Department of Comparative Biosciences, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, IL 61802, USA.

Differentiation of endometrial stromal cells into decidual cells is a prerequisite for successful embryo implantation. Our previous studies in the mouse have shown that bone morphogenetic protein 2 (BMP2), a morphogen belonging to the TGFβ superfamily, is essential for this differentiation process. BMP2 is markedly induced in human primary endometrial stromal cells (HESCs) as they undergo differentiation in response to steroid hormones and cAMP. The present study was undertaken to identify the BMP2-mediated molecular pathways in primary cultures of HESCs during decidualization. Using gene expression profiling, we identified wingless-related murine mammary tumor virus integration site 4 (WNT4) as a target of BMP2 regulation during decidualization. Attenuation of WNT4 expression in HESCs by small interfering RNA administration greatly reduced BMP2-induced stromal differentiation. Additionally, adenovirus-mediated overexpression of WNT4 in HESCs markedly advanced the differentiation program, indicating that it is a key regulator of decidualization. The stimulatory effect of WNT4 was accompanied by the accumulation of active β-catenin in the nuclei of decidualizing stromal cells, indicating the involvement of the canonical WNT signaling pathway. Functional inhibition of WNT4/β-catenin pathway by Dickkopf-1, an inhibitor of the canonical WNT signaling, or small interfering RNA-mediated silencing of β-catenin expression, greatly reduced the BMP2- and WNT4-induced decidualization. Gene expression profiling revealed that Forkhead box protein O1, a forkhead family transcription factor and previously reported regulator of HESC differentiation, is a common downstream mediator of both BMP2 and WNT4 signaling. Taken together, these studies uncovered a linear pathway involving BMP2, WNT4/β-catenin, and Forkhead box protein O1 that operates in human endometrium to critically control decidualization.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1210/en.2012-1585DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3529366PMC
January 2013

Regulation of human endometrial stromal proliferation and differentiation by C/EBPβ involves cyclin E-cdk2 and STAT3.

Mol Endocrinol 2012 Dec 24;26(12):2016-30. Epub 2012 Oct 24.

Department of Molecular and Integrative Physiology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, Illinois 61801, USA.

During each menstrual cycle, the human uterus undergoes a unique transformation, known as decidualization, which involves endometrial stromal proliferation and differentiation. During this process, the stromal cells are transformed into decidual cells, which produce factors that prepare the uterus for potential embryo implantation. We previously identified the transcription factor CCAAT/enhancer-binding protein (C/EBP)β as a regulator of endometrial stromal proliferation and differentiation in mice. In this study, we addressed the role of C/EBPβ in human endometrial decidualization. Using small interfering RNA targeted to C/EBPβ mRNA, we demonstrated that C/EBPβ controls the proliferation of primary human endometrial stromal cells (HESCs) by regulating the expression of several key cell cycle-regulatory factors during the G(1)-S phase transition. Additionally, loss of C/EBPβ expression blocked the differentiation of HESCs in response to estrogen, progesterone, and cyclic AMP. Gene expression profiling of normal and C/EBPβ-deficient HESCs revealed that the receptor for the cytokine IL-11 and its downstream signal transducer signal transducer and activator of transcription 3 (STAT3) are targets of regulation by C/EBPβ. Chromatin immunoprecipitation analysis indicated that C/EBPβ controls the expression of STAT3 gene by directly interacting with a distinct regulatory sequence in its 5'-flanking region. Attenuation of STAT3 mRNA expression in HESCs resulted in markedly reduced differentiation of these cells, indicating an important role for STAT3 in decidualization. Gene expression profiling, using STAT3-deficient HESCs, showed an extensive overlap of pathways downstream of STAT3 and C/EBPβ during stromal cell differentiation. Collectively, these findings revealed a novel functional link between C/EBPβ and STAT3 that is a critical regulator of endometrial differentiation in women.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1210/me.2012-1169DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3517719PMC
December 2012