Special Reviews

Deciphering the Cross-Talk of Implantation: Advances and Challenges

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Science  21 Jun 2002:
Vol. 296, Issue 5576, pp. 2185-2188
DOI: 10.1126/science.1071601

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Implantation involves a series of steps leading to an effective reciprocal signaling between the blastocyst and the uterus. Except for a restricted period when ovarian hormones induce a uterine receptive phase, the uterus is an unfavorable environment for blastocyst implantation. Because species-specific variations in implantation strategies exist, these differences preclude the formulation of a unifying theme for the molecular basis of this event. However, an increased understanding of mammalian implantation has been gained through the use of the mouse model. This review summarizes recognized signaling cascades and new research in mammalian implantation, based primarily on available genetic and molecular evidence from implantation studies in the mouse. Although the identification of new molecules associated with implantation in various species provides valuable insight, important questions remain regarding the common molecular mechanisms that govern this process. Understanding the mechanisms of implantation promises to help alleviate infertility, enhance fetal health, and improve contraceptive design.

The success of any species depends on its reproductive efficiency. For sexual reproduction, an egg and sperm must overcome many obstacles to fuse and co-mingle their genetic material at fertilization. The zygote develops into a blastocyst with two cell lineages (the inner cell mass and the trophectoderm), migrates within the reproductive tract, and ultimately implants into a transiently permissive host tissue, the uterus. However, the molecular basis of the road map connecting the blastocyst with the endometrium across species is diverse (1) and not fully understood. Recent advances have identified numerous molecules involved in implantation (1–4), yet new discoveries have not yielded a unifying scheme for the mechanisms of implantation.

  • * To whom correspondence should be addressed. E-mail: sk.dey{at}vanderbilt.edu

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