Cytokines and Blastocyst Hatching

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Abstract

Blastocyst implantation into the uterine endometrium establishes early pregnancy. This event is regulated by blastocyst- and/or endometrium-derived molecular factors which include hormones, growth factors, cell adhesion molecules, cytokines and proteases. Their coordinated expression and function are critical for a viable pregnancy. A rate-limiting event that immediately precedes implantation is the hatching of blastocyst. Ironically, blastocyst hatching is tacitly linked to peri-implantation events, although it is a distinct developmental phenomenon. The exact molecular network regulating hatching is still unclear. A number of implantation-associated molecular factors are expressed in the pre-implanting blastocyst. Among others, cytokines, expressed by peri-implantation blastocysts, are thought to be important for hatching, making blastocysts implantation competent. Pro-inflammatory (IL-6, LIF, GM-CSF) and anti-inflammatory (IL-11, CSF-1) cytokines improve hatching rates; they modulate proteases (MMPs, tPAs, cathepsins and ISP1). However, functional involvement of cytokines and their specific mediation of hatching-associated proteases are unclear. There is a need to understand mechanistic roles of cytokines and proteases in blastocyst hatching. This review will assess the available knowledge on blastocyst-derived pro-inflammatory and anti-inflammatory cytokines and their role in potentially regulating blastocyst hatching. They have implications in our understanding of early embryonic loss and infertility in mammals, including humans.

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