Decidualization of the human endometrial stromal cell: an enigmatic transformation

Carolyn L Dunn, Rodney W Kelly, Hilary O D Critchley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Changes in human endometrium are essential to allow the establishment of pregnancy. These changes are induced in vivo by progesterone, and include appearance within the tissue of a specific uterine natural killer cell, characterized by an abundant expression of CD56. Changes also occur in the stromal cells, which undergo a characteristic decidualization reaction. Decidualized stromal cells are derived from the fibroblast-like cells within the endometrium, which maintain their progesterone receptors in the presence of progesterone. Prolonged exposure to progesterone induces a rounded cell characterized by release of prolactin and insulin-like growth factor binding protein-1 (IGFBP-1), and expression of tissue factor. Additional changes include the secretion of interleukin (IL)-15, vascular endothelial growth factor, and surface expression of zinc dependent metalloproteinases such as CD10 and CD13. In vitro, elevated intracellular cAMP as well as progesterone is necessary for decidualization. In vivo, these conditions may be provided by progesterone from the corpus luteum, by prostaglandin E, a stimulator of adenyl cyclase, and relaxin, which has recently been shown to be a phosphodiesterase inhibitor. Given the co-distribution of uterine natural killer cells and decidualized stromal cells, a mutual interaction might provide the correct regulatory environment for successful implantation, and penetration of the maternal blood vessels by trophoblastic cells.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)151-61
Number of pages11
JournalReproductive BioMedicine Online
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2003


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