The endogenous factors that underlie the transient induction of the gene encoding spermidine/spermine N1-acetyltransferase (SSAT), the rate-limiting enzyme in cellular polyamine catabolism, in pig uterine endometrium during periimplantation are not known. The present study examined a number of peptide growth factors and regulatory molecules that are present within the uterine environment at early pregnancy, coincident with maximal SSAT gene expression, for their ability to manifest endogenous SSAT gene-inducing activity. Basal SSAT expression in luminal epithelial cells was higher (p < 0.01) than that for glandular epithelial (GE) or stromal (ST) cells. Recombinant human insulin-like growth factor-I (IGF-I; 50 ng/ml) had no effect on steady-state SSAT mRNA levels, but it increased mitogenesis in all three cell types. In contrast, IGF-I caused a marked induction (p < 0.01) of SSAT mRNA levels in the human endometrial carcinoma cell line Hec-1-A. Uterine explants incubated with interleukin-6, transforming growth factor α, epidermal growth factor (each at 1, 10, and 100 ng/ml), retinoic acid and retinol (each at 0.01, 0.1, and 1 μM), and estradiol-17β (10 nM) had SSAT mRNA levels similar to controls. By contrast, leukemia inhibitory factor (LIF; at 10 and 100 ng/ml) caused a modest, but significant (p < 0.05), increase in SSAT mRNA levels over those of untreated explants. This effect of LIF, however, did not approach the level of induction observed in GE or ST cells after addition of medium conditioned by Day 12 or 17 porcine conceptuses and in endometrial explants supplemented with medium conditioned by Day 21 porcine conceptuses or a continuous cell line (Jag-1) derived from Day 14 porcine trophoblast. We suggest that transient induction of endometrial SSAT gene expression at implantation is mediated by the functional interactions of specific conceptus-derived regulatory factors, distinct from estrogen, with endometrial-derived factor(s) such as LIF. These complex interactions are probably requisite for the transient, yet dramatic, induction of SSAT gene expression and may be critical for successful implantation.