The peptide hormone calcitonin plays a key role in calcium homeostasis in many tissues, such as bone and kidney. Our previous studies revealed that the expression of calcitonin is dramatically induced in the glandular epithelium of rat uterus between days 3-5 of pregnancy before the onset of blastocyst implantation on day 5. Calcitonin expression is switched off once implantation has progressed to day 6. The coincidence in timing suggested that calcitonin may function as a regulatory signal in the uterus during the early events leading to implantation. Here we report that the implantation stage-specific expression of calcitonin can be specifically attenuated by administering antisense oligodeoxynucleotides (ODNs) directed against exon IV of calcitonin messenger RNA into the uterine horns on day 2 of gestation. The loss of calcitonin messenger RNA and protein expression upon antisense ODN treatment is accompanied by a severe impairment in implantation of embryos. Based on the observations that 1) treatment with two different antisense ODNs possessing different base compositions produced similar phenotypes; and 2) treatment with the complementary sense ODNs did not affect either calcitonin expression or implantation, we conclude that the effects of antisense ODNs on calcitonin expression and implantation are specific and functionally linked. Our study strengthens the hypothesis that a transient expression of calcitonin in the preimplantation phase uterus is critical for blastocyst implantation.
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