PROBLEM: Integrins belong to a family of cell adhesion molecules that are present on virtually all cells. The temporal and spatial expression of these important proteins on the human endometrium suggests that certain integrins may participate in the cascade of molecular events leading to successful implantation.
METHODS: Using immunohistochemistry, we studied the expression of 12 different integrins in up to 600 samples of human endometrium throughout the menstrual cycle. Intensity and distribution of staining was determined using the semiquantitative HSCORE, with specific focus on the differences between glandular and luminal expression.
RESULTS: We noted that the glandular and luminal epithelium undergo independent alterations in integrin expression throughout the menstrual cycle. Specifically, glandular epithelium express certain integrins only during the window of implantation, while luminal epithelium down-regulate certain integrins during this time. The expression of one integrin (the αvβ3 vitronectin receptor) on both luminal and glandular epithelium coincides with the time of embryo attachment; aberrant expression of this integrin is associated with infertility.
CONCLUSION: It appears that the endometrium is a unique tissue with regard to the number of integrins that undergo temporal and spatial changes during the menstrual cycle. These data may offer new directions for the development of a novel contraceptive approach targeted to the endometrium as well as a better understanding of occult causes of infertility in women.