Chorionic gonadotropin (CG) plays an important role in establishing a receptive endometrium by directly modulating the function of both endometrial stromal and epithelial cells in the baboon. The focus of this study was to characterize changes in CG receptor (LHCGR, also known as CG-R) expression during the menstrual cycle and early pregnancy, particularly during decidualization. LHCGR was localized by using a peptide-specific antibody generated against the extracellular domain. Immunostaining was absent in any of the cell types during the proliferative phase of the cycle. In contrast, during the secretory phase, both luminal and glandular epithelial cells stained positively. Stromal staining was confined to the cells around spiral arteries (SAs) and in the basalis layer. This stromal staining pattern persisted at the implantation site between Days 18 and 25 of pregnancy and after CG infusion. However, as pregnancy progressed (Days 40 to 60), staining for LHCGR was dramatically decreased in the stromal cells. These data were confirmed by nonisotopic in situ hybridization. To confirm whether the loss of LHCGR was associated with a decidual response, stromal fibroblasts were decidualized in vitro, and cell lysates obtained after 3, 6, and 12 days of culture were analyzed by Western blotting. LHCGR protein decreased with the onset of decidualization in vitro, confirming the in vivo results. Addition of CG to decidualized cells resulted in the reinduction of LHCGR in the absence of dbcAMP. We propose that CG acting via its R on stromal cells modulates SA in preparation for pregnancy and trophoblast invasion. As pregnancy progresses, further modification of SA by migrating endovascular trophoblasts and subsequent decidualization results in the downregulation of LHCGR. This inhibition of LHCGR expression also coincides with the decrease of measurable CG in peripheral circulation.
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