A hypoxia-induced Rab pathway regulates embryo implantation by controlled trafficking of secretory granules

Arpita Bhurke, Athilakshmi Kannan, Alison Neff, Qiuyan Ma, Mary J. Laws, Robert N. Taylor, Milan K. Bagchi, Indrani C. Bagchi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Implantation is initiated when an embryo attaches to the uterine luminal epithelium and subsequently penetrates into the underlying stroma to firmly embed in the endometrium. These events are followed by the formation of an extensive vascular network in the stroma that supports embryonic growth and ensures successful implantation. Interestingly, in many mammalian species, these processes of early pregnancy occur in a hypoxic environment. However, the mechanisms underlying maternal adaptation to hypoxia during early pregnancy remain unclear. In this study, using a knockout mouse model, we show that the transcription factor hypoxia-inducible factor 2 alpha (Hif2α), which is induced in subluminal stromal cells at the time of implantation, plays a crucial role during early pregnancy. Indeed, when preimplantation endometrial stromal cells are exposed to hypoxic conditions in vitro, we observed a striking enhancement in HIF2a expression. Further studies revealed that HIF2α regulates the expression of several metabolic and protein trafficking factors, including RAB27B, at the onset of implantation. RAB27B is a member of the Rab family of GTPases that allows controlled release of secretory granules. These granules are involved in trafficking MMP-9 from the stroma to the epithelium to promote luminal epithelial remodeling during embryo invasion. As pregnancy progresses, the HIF2a-RAB27B pathway additionally mediates crosstalk between stromal and endothelial cells via VEGF granules, developing the vascular network critical for establishing pregnancy. Collectively, our study provides insights into the intercellular communication mechanisms that operate during adaptation to hypoxia, which is essential for embryo implantation and establishment of pregnancy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)14532-14542
Number of pages11
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number25
StatePublished - Jun 23 2020


  • Endometrium
  • Granules
  • Hypoxia
  • Implantation
  • RAB

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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