Characterization of Foamy Epithelial Surface Cells in the Canine Endometrium

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In mature bitches, endometrial epithelial surface cells modify function and corresponding morphology during the oestrous cycle. During late metoestrous, endometrial epithelial surface cells frequently accumulate fat and thereby adopt a foamy morphology. This cyclic appearance of foamy endometrial epithelial cells (fEECs) seems to be physiological in the dog, whereas in other species, it indicates pathological changes. Function of these fEECs has not been identified until now. Therefore, the aim of the study was to characterize the fEECs by means of transmission electron microscopy and immunohistochemistry. Different manifestations of fEECs were observed and analysed with regard to proliferative activity and presence of different epithelial adhesion molecules including PLEKHA7, β-catenin and E-cadherin. PLEKHA7 was restricted to the apical regions of the fEECs, whereas E-cadherin and β-catenin were demonstrated basolateral. The immunohistochemical detection of steroid hormone receptors demonstrated the responsiveness of the fEECs to steroid hormones. Intense progesterone receptor expression was observed in the fEECs indicating a high responsiveness to this hormone. Considering a potential function of the fEECs, we hypothesized that leptin, a hormone produced by other lipid-accumulating cells and described to be involved in reproduction, in particular during implantation, might also originate from the fEECs which was confirmed by immunohistochemical methods. Moreover, leptin receptor was found in fEECs indicating the fEECs as both, source and target for leptin. Therefore, we conclude that fEECs in the canine uterus have a potential role in early pregnancy events and that the different observed manifestations might simply reflect the variations of signs of pseudopregnancy among bitches.

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