Dynamic distribution of epidermal growth factor during mouse embryo peri-implantation

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Embryo implantation depends on the synchronized development of the blastocyst and the endometrium. This process is highly controlled by the coordinated action of the steroid hormones: estrogen and progesterone. By autocrine, paracrine or juxtacrine routes, some growth factors or cytokines are involved in this steroidal regulation pathway. Here we report the effects of epidermal growth factor (EGF) on embryo implantation in the mouse, the expression and distribution patterns of EGF protein in the mouse blastocyst, ectoplacental cone (EPC) and peri-implantation uterus on days 1–8 of gestation.By RT-PCR and dot blot, we found that EGF and its receptor (EGFR) are co-expressed in the blastocyst and peri-implantational uteri of pregnant days 2–8 (D2–D8) mice. Injection of EGF antibody into a uterine horn on the third day of pregnancy (D3) significantly reduced the number of mouse embryos that implanted on D8, indicating EGF have a function in the mouse embryo implantation.Further investigation by using indirect immunofluorescence and confocal microscope was made to trace EGF and EGFR protein localization during the mouse embryo implantation. EGF and EGFR are co-localized in the blastocyst, and in the secondary trophoblastic giant cells (SGC) of the EPC. At the pre-implantation stage, the distribution of EGF protein in the mouse uterus changes from epithelium to stroma. On D1 of pregnancy, EGF is mainly distributed in uterine stroma and myometrium. On D2, it is present in the uterine epithelium. On D3, it changes again from the uterine epithelium to the stroma. By D4, EGF is predominantly in the stroma. This dynamic distribution correlates with the proliferation activity of uterine cells at each period. On D6–D8 of embryo implantation, EGF 3 protein accumulates at the uterine mesometrial pole, a region that contributes to the trophoblastic invasiveness and placentation.This temporal and spatial localization of EGF protein in the mouse uterus implicates the cytokine in the regulation of trophoblastic invasiveness and uterine receptiveness.

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