Successful implantation requires complex signaling between the uterine endometrium and the blastocyst. Prior to the blastocyst reaching the uterus, the endometrium is remodeled by sex steroids and other signals to render the endometrium receptive. In vitro models have facilitated major advances in our understanding of endometrium preparation and endometrial–blastocyst communication in mice and humans, but these systems have not been widely adapted for use in other models which might generate a deeper understanding of these processes. The objective of our study was to use a recently developed, three-dimensional culture system to identify specific roles of female sex steroids in remodeling the organization and function of feline endometrial cells. We treated endometrial cells with physiologically relevant concentrations of estradiol and progesterone, either in isolation or in combination, for 1 week. We then examined size and density of three-dimensional structures, and quantified expression of candidate genes known to vary in response to sex steroid treatments and that have functional relevance to the decidualization process. Combined sex steroid treatments recapitulated organizational patterns seen in vivo; however, sex steroid manipulations did not induce expected changes to expression of decidualization-related genes. Our results demonstrate that sex steroids may not be sufficient for complete decidualization and preparation of the feline endometrium, thereby highlighting key areas of opportunity for further study and suggesting some unique functions of felid uterine tissues.
Estradiol and progesterone influence distinct aspects of felid endometrial cell organization in vitro, but they are not sufficient to support expression of decidualization-related genes.