The objective of this study was to determine whether beta human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) (CGB) subunits and alpha hCG (CGA) subunits are expressed and the hCG dimer is produced in normal human cyclic endometrium. Endometrial specimens were collected for histological dating from women undergoing treatment in our division of human reproduction. RNA from normal secretory endometrium was extracted, and CGB and CGA gene expression was assessed by semiquantitative PCR. Adequate secretory endometrial specimens were homogenized using protease inhibitors. Proteins present in the supernatant were separated electrophoretically, and molecular hCG isoforms were detected by Western blot. The supernatant hCG concentrations were measured by ELISA. We characterized hCG and leukocytes in endometrial specimens by immunohistochemistry. Uterine flushing was performed to confirm endometrial hCG secretion into the uterine fluid. A full-length CGB mRNA encompassing the exon 1 promoter region and the structure exons 2 and 3 (including the C-terminal peptide) was expressed in normal secretory endometrial specimens (similar to CGA) during the early secretory phase of the menstrual cycle, up to an optimum at the midsecretory to late secretory phases. In homogenate supernatants obtained from normal secretory endometrium, hormone concentrations of dimeric hCG were approximately 5 mU per 10 mg of tissue, compared with considerably smaller concentrations of corresponding single free CGB subunit. Single chains of CGB, CGA, and dimeric molecular hCG isoforms were found in endometrial specimens by Western blot. Glandular endometrial hCG production is demonstrated immunohistochemically, with an increase toward the late secretory phase vs. the early secretory phase of the normal secretory menstrual cycle. However, glandular hCG release is diminished or absent in the dyssynchronous or missing endometrial secretory transformation. Endogenous endometrial hCG may be important for implantation and maintenance of pregnancy.
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Vol. 80 • No. 5