Gap junctions have an important role in cell-to-cell communication, a process obviously required for embryo implantation. Uterine luminal epithelium (LE) is the first contact for an implanting embryo and is critical for the establishment of uterine receptivity. Microarray analysis of the LE from peri-implantation mouse uterus showed low-level expression of 19 gap junction proteins in preimplantation LE and upregulation of gap junction protein, beta 2 (GJB2, connexin 26, Cx26) in postimplantation LE. Time course study using in situ hybridization and immunofluorescence revealed upregulation of GJB2 in the LE surrounding the implantation site before decidualization. Similar dynamic expression of GJB2 was observed in the LE of artificially decidualized mice but not pseudopregnant mice. To determine the potential function of uterine gap junctions in embryo implantation, carbenoxolone (CBX), a broad gap junction blocker, was injected i.p. (100 mg/kg) or via local uterine fat pad (10 mg/kg) into pregnant mice on Gestation Day 3 at 1800 h, a few hours before embryo attachment to the LE. These CBX treatments disrupted embryo implantation, suggesting local effects of CBX in the uterus. However, i.p. injection of glycyrrhizic acid (100 mg/kg), which shares similar structure and multiple properties with CBX but is ineffective in blocking gap junctions, did not affect embryo implantation. Carbenoxolone also inhibited oil-induced artificial decidualization, concomitant with suppressed molecular changes and ultrastructural transformations associated with uterine preparation for embryo implantation, underscoring the adverse effect of CBX on uterine preparation for embryo implantation. These data demonstrate that uterine gap junctions are important for embryo implantation.
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Vol. 89 • No. 2