Dev Biol 1999 Apr;208(2):488-501
Department of Molecular and Integrative Physiology, Ralph L. Smith Research Center, University of Kansas Medical Center, Kansas City, Kansas, 66160-7338, USA.
Two-way interactions between the blastocyst trophectoderm and the uterine luminal epithelium are essential for implantation. The key events of this process are cell-cell contact of trophectoderm cells with uterine luminal epithelial cells, controlled invasion of trophoblast cells through the luminal epithelium and the basement membrane, transformation of uterine stromal cells surrounding the blastocyst into decidual cells, and protection of the "semiallogenic" embryo from the mother's immunological responses. Because cell-cell contact between the trophectoderm epithelium and the luminal epithelium is essential for implantation, we investigated the expression of zonula occludens-1 (ZO-1) and E-cadherin, two molecules associated with epithelial cell junctions, in the mouse uterus during the periimplantation period. Preimplantation uterine epithelial cells express both ZO-1 and E-cadherin. With the initiation and progression of implantation, ZO-1 and E-cadherin are expressed in stromal cells of the primary decidual zone (PDZ). As trophoblast invasion progresses, these two molecules are expressed in stroma in advance of the invading trophoblast cells. These results suggest that expression of these adherence and tight junctions molecules in the PDZ serves to function as a permeability barrier to regulate access of immunologically competent maternal cells and/or molecules to the embryo and provide homotypic guidance of trophoblast cells in the endometrium.