Matrix metalloproteinases (MMP) degrade components of the extracellular matrix and the balance between enzyme production and that of their specific tissue inhibitors (TIMPs) is likely to be crucial for menstruation. The temporal expression of messenger (m) RNA for proMMP-1 (interstitial collagenase),proMMP-3(stromelysin 1), TIMP-1 and TIMP-2 has been examined by Northern analysis in 73 individually-dated endometrial tissue samples from normal women. Thirteen tissues expressed the mRNA for proMMP-3 and mRNA for proMMP-1 was detected in eleven of the same tissues. All of these tissues were from the menstrual (11) or perimenstrual (2) phases. No expression of mRNA for proMMP-1 or -3 was detected between cycle days 4 and 26. By contrast, mRNA for both TIMP-1 and TIMP-2 was detected in all tissue samples. The abundance of mRNA for TIMP-1 was significantly elevated in menstrual tissue compared with tissue from the rest of the cycle. TIMP-2 mRNA expression displayed considerable variability between individual tissues but mean abundance was also higher in menstrual tissue. Menstruation is therefore associated with a perturbation of the balance between the expression of MMPs and their tissue inhibitors which could lead to tissue degradation.
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