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V Rider, T Potapova, G Dai and M J Soares

Differentiation of uterine stromal cells is critical for the establishment of pregnancy. This study had two purposes: (i) to validate the use of the UIII rat uterine stromal cell model for investigating mechanisms underlying decidual cell differentiation, and (ii) to use this cell model to identify a molecular switch for cellular entry into the decidual cell differentiation pathway. Quiescent rat uterine stromal cells were transfected with a 500 bp segment of the decidual prolactin-related protein (dPRP) promoter ligated to a luciferase reporter gene. Cells were incubated in low-serum medium, or in low-serum medium containing progesterone (1 μM), estradiol 17-β (10 nM), cholera toxin (10 ng/ml) and interleukin-11 (10 ng/ml). Protein extracts were collected 48 h later and luciferase was measured in the cellular lysates. Cholera toxin and interleukin-11 stimulated luciferase expression (P< 0.05) and addition of sex steroids further increased (P< 0.05) dPRP promoter activity. Stromal cells did not proliferate (P< 0.05) under differentiation conditions. Deletion analysis of the dPRP promoter revealed maximal luciferase expression between −250 and −500 bp relative to the transcription start site. Comparison of cyclin E/Cdk2 activity between proliferating and differentiating cells showed a 3-fold increase (P< 0.05) at 12 h in differentiating cells. The results suggest that cyclin E/Cdk2 serves as a molecular switch for uterine stromal cell entry into the decidual cell differentiation pathway.

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G Dai, D Wang, B Liu, JW Kasik, H Muller, RA White, GS Hummel and MJ Soares

The prolactin (PRL) family consists of a collection of genes expressed in the uterus, placenta and anterior pituitary. These cytokines/hormones participate in the control of maternal-fetal adaptations to pregnancy. In this report, we establish the presence of three new members of the PRL family. Novel expressed sequence tags (ESTs) with homology to PRL were isolated from embryonic and placental cDNA libraries. The cDNAs were sequenced and compared with those of other members of the PRL family. The three new cDNAs were assigned to the PRL family on the basis of sequence similarities and were referred to as PRL-like protein-J (PLP-J), PRL-like protein-K (PLP-K) and PRL-like protein-M (PLP-M). Both rat and mouse PLP-J cDNAs were identified. Rat PLP-J cDNA encodes for a predicted 211 amino acid protein containing a 29 amino acid signal peptide and two putative N-linked glycosylation sites, whereas the mouse PLP-J cDNA encodes for a 212 amino acid protein containing a 29 amino acid signal peptide with a single N-linked glycosylation site. Rat and mouse PLP-J proteins share approximately 79% and 70% nucleotide and amino acid sequence identity, respectively. A full-length rat PLP-K cDNA and a partial tentative mouse PLP-K cDNA were identified. The rat PLP-K cDNA encodes for a predicted 228 amino acid protein containing a 31 amino acid signal peptide and one putative N-linked glycosylation site; the mouse PLP-M cDNA encodes for a predicted 228 amino acid protein containing a 28 amino acid signal peptide and one putative N-linked glycosylation site. Genes for PLP-J, PLP-K and PLP-M are situated at the Prl family locus on mouse chromosome 13. PLP-J was exclusively expressed in decidual tissue from both the mouse and rat. PLP-K was expressed in trophoblast cells of the chorioallantoic placenta and showed an apparent species difference. In the mouse, virtually all trophoblast lineages expressed PLP-K, whereas in the rat, PLP-K expression was restricted to the labyrinthine trophoblast cells. Mouse PLP-M expression was restricted to the junctional zone of the chorioallantoic placenta. In summary, we have identified three new members of the rodent PRL gene family that are expressed in uterine and placental structures. Future experimentation is needed to determine the specific roles of each of these ligands in the biology of pregnancy.

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D Wang, R Ishimura, DS Walia, H Muller, G Dai, JS Hunt, NA Lee, JJ Lee and MJ Soares

The uterus and placenta of the mouse and rat produce a member of the prolactin (PRL) family referred to as decidual/trophoblast PRL-related protein (d/tPRP). This cytokine/hormone has been hypothesized to regulate decidual cell activities needed for the establishment and maintenance of gestation. An alkaline phosphatase (AP)-tagging strategy was used to identify d/tPRP target cells. AP-d/tPRP bound to virtually all cells and tissues to which it was exposed, consistent with our earlier evidence that d/tPRP binds to heparin-containing molecules. Moreover, we found that co-incubation with heparin or pretreatment with heparitinase greatly decreased the binding of AP-d/tPRP to tissue sections. In addition, we observed that the AP-d/tPRP probe bound to the surface of Chinese hamster ovary (CHO) cells but not to heparan sulfate-deficient CHO-pgsD-677 cells. Potential unique non-heparin d/tPRP binding sites within mouse and rat uteroplacental tissues were identified by consecutively incubating sections with AP-d/tPRP followed by heparin. This strategy led to the identification of d/tPRP target cells associated with the uterus and the labyrinth zone of the chorioallantoic placenta. Within the uterus, d/tPRP specifically bound to eosinophils. d/tPRP-binding and eosinophil peroxidase activity were co-localized and showed similar patterns of distribution during the estrous cycle, pregnancy, and following hormonal manipulation. d/tPRP interactions with eosinophils were further demonstrated in the lung and intestine, with eosinophils isolated from the peritoneum, and in mice with generalized tissue eosinophilia. Collectively, these findings suggest that intercellular d/tPRP targeting is mediated through associations with heparin-containing molecules which help direct d/tPRP to specific interactions with eosinophils within the uterus and with the labyrinthine compartment of the chorioallantoic placenta.