The steroid hormone estrogen profoundly influences the early events in the uterus leading to embryo implantation. It is thought that estrogen triggers the expression of a unique set of genes in the preimplantation endometrium that in turn control implantation. To identify these estrogen-induced genes, we used a delayed implantation model system in which embryo attachment to endometrium is dependent on estrogen administration. Using a mRNA differential display (DD) method, we isolated a number of cDNAs representing mRNAs whose expression is either turned on or turned off in response to an implantation-inducing dose of estrogen. We identified one of these cDNAs as that encoding rab11, a p21ras-like GTP-binding protein (G protein), which functions in the targeting of transport vesicles to the plasma membrane. In normal pregnant rats, rab11 mRNA was expressed at low levels on days 1-2 of pregnancy, but its expression was markedly enhanced (~6- to 8-fold) between days 3-5 immediately before implantation. In situ hybridization and immunocytochemistry revealed that rab11 expression in the uterus was predominantly in the glandular epithelium. In ovariectomized rats, the expression of rab11 mRNA was induced in the endometrium in response to estrogen. To determine whether this effect of estrogen was mediated through its nuclear receptors, we examined rab11 expression in a transformed endometrial cell line, Ishikawa. In transient transfection experiments, we observed that overexpression of estrogen receptor (ER) α or β induced endogenous rab11 mRNA in a hormone-dependent manner. ER bound to an antagonist, ICI 182,780, failed to activate this gene expression. These findings, together with the observation that ERα but not ERβ is detected in the glands of the preimplantation uterus, indicate that rab11 is one of the proteins that are specifically induced by estrogen-complexed ERα in rat endometrium at the onset of implantation. Our results imply that estrogen, which induces the synthesis of many growth factors and their receptors and other secretory proteins that are thought to be critical for implantation, may also facilitate their transport to the membrane and/or secretion by stimulating the expression of rab11, a component of the membrane-trafficking pathway. This study therefore provides novel insights into the diverse cellular mechanisms by which estrogen, acting via its nuclear receptors, may influence blastocyst implantation.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Molecular Biology