Extracellular vesicles secreted by human uterine stromal cells regulate decidualization, angiogenesis, and trophoblast differentiation

Qiuyan Ma, Jacob R. Beal, Arpita Bhurke, Athilakshmi Kannan, Jie Yu, Robert N. Taylor, Indrani C. Bagchi, Milan K. Bagchi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In humans, the uterus undergoes a dramatic transformation to form an endometrial stroma-derived secretory tissue, termed decidua, during early pregnancy. The decidua secretes various factors that act in an autocrine/paracrine manner to promote stromal differentiation, facilitate maternal angiogenesis, and influence trophoblast differentiation and development, which are critical for the formation of a functional placenta. Here, we investigated the mechanisms by which decidual cells communicate with each other and with other cell types within the uterine milieu. We discovered that primary human endometrial stromal cells (HESCs) secrete extracellular vesicles (EVs) during decidualization and that this process is controlled by a conserved HIF2α-RAB27B pathway. Mass spectrometry revealed that the decidual EVs harbor a variety of protein cargo, including cell signaling molecules, growth modulators, metabolic regulators, and factors controlling endothelial cell expansion and remodeling. We tested the hypothesis that EVs secreted by the decidual cells mediate functional communications between various cell types within the uterus. We demonstrated that the internalization of EVs, specifically those carrying the glucose transporter 1 (GLUT1), promotes glucose uptake in recipient HESCs, supporting and advancing the decidualization program. Additionally, delivery of HESC-derived EVs into human endothelial cells stimulated their proliferation and led to enhanced vascular network formation. Strikingly, stromal EVs also promoted the differentiation of trophoblast stem cells into the extravillous trophoblast lineage. Collectively, these findings provide a deeper understanding of the pleiotropic roles played by EVs secreted by the decidual cells to ensure coordination of endometrial differentiation and angiogenesis with trophoblast function during the progressive phases of decidualization and placentation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere2200252119
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number38
StatePublished - Sep 20 2022


  • angiogenesis
  • decidualization
  • extracellular vesicles
  • human endometrial stromal cells
  • trophoblast cells

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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