Successful implantation and maintenance of pregnancy require the transformation of uterine endometrial stromal cells into distinct decidualized cells. Although estrogen and progesterone (P4) receptors are known to be essential for decidualization, the roles of steroid receptor coregulators in this process remain largely unknown. In this study, we have established a key role for the coregulator, repressor of estrogen receptor activity (REA), in the decidualization of human endometrial stromal cells (hESCs) in vitro and of the mouse uterus in vivo. Our studies revealed that the level ofREAnormally decreases to half as hESC decidualization proceedsandthat uterine reduction of REA in transgenic heterozygous knockout mice or small interfering RNA knockdown of REA in hESC temporally accelerated and strongly enhanced the differentiation process, as indicated by changes in cell morphology and increased expression of biomarkers of decidualization, including P4 receptor. Findings in hESC cultured in vitro with estradiol, P4, and 8-bromo-cAMP over a 10-day period mirrored observations of enhanced decidualization response in transgenic mice with heterozygous deletion of REA. Importantly, gene expression and immunohistochemical analyses revealed changes in multiple components of the Janus kinase/signal transducer and activator of transcription pathway, including marked up-regulation of signal transducer and activator of transcription 3 and IL-11, master regulators of decidualization, and the down-regulation of several suppressor of cytokine signaling family members, upon reduction of REA. The findings highlight that REA physiologically restrains endometrial stromal cell decidualization, controlling the timing and magnitude of decidualization to enable proper coordination of uterine differentiation with concurrent embryo development that is essential for implantation and optimal fertility.
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