• endometrium;
  • blastocyst;
  • extracellular matrix proteins


Integrins are expressed in a highly regulated manner at the maternal-fetal interface during implantation. However, the significance of extracellular matrix (ECM) ligands during the integrin-mediated embryo attachment to the endometrium is not fully understood. Thus, the distribution of fibronectin in the rat uterus and blastocyst was studied at the time of implantation. Fibronectin was absent in the uterine luminal epithelial cells but was intensely expressed in the trophoblast cells and the inner cell mass suggesting that fibronectin secreted from the blastocyst may be a possible bridging ligand for the integrins expressed at the maternal-fetal interface. An Arg-Gly-Asp (RGD) peptide was used to block the RGD recognition sites on integrins, and the effect on rat blastocyst attachment to Ishikawa cells was examined. There was a significant reduction in blastocyst attachment when either the blastocysts or the Ishikawa cells were pre-incubated with the RGD-blocking peptide. Thus, successful attachment of the embryo to the endometrium requires the interaction of integrins on both the endometrium and the blastocyst with the RGD sequence of ECM ligands, such as fibronectin. Pre-treatment of both blastocysts and Ishikawa cells with the RGD peptide also inhibited blastocyst attachment, but not completely, suggesting that ECM bridging ligands that do not contain the RGD sequence are also involved in embryo attachment. J. Morphol. 2013. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.