Human endometrial and decidual stromal cells are the same cells in different environments (nonpregnancy and pregnancy, respectively). Although some authors consider decidual stromal cells to arise solely from the differentiation of endometrial stromal cells, this is a debatable issue given that decidualization processes do not end with the formation of the decidua, as shown by the presence of stromal cells from both the endometrium and decidua in both undifferentiated (nondecidualized) and decidualized states. Furthermore, recent functional and transcriptomic results have shown that there are differences in the decidualization process of endometrial and decidual stromal cells, with the latter having a greater decidualization capacity than the former. These differences suggest that in the terminology and study of their characteristics, endometrial and decidual stromal cells should be clearly distinguished, as should their undifferentiated or decidualized status. There is, however, considerable confusion in the designation and identification of uterine stromal cells. This confusion may impede a judicious understanding of the functional processes in normal and pathological situations. In this article, we analyze the different terms used in the literature for different types of uterine stromal cells, and propose that a combination of differentiation status (undifferentiated, decidualized) and localization (endometrium, decidua) criteria should be used to arrive at a set of accurate, unambiguous terms. The cell identity of uterine stromal cells is also a debatable issue: phenotypic, functional, and transcriptomic studies in recent decades have related these cells to different established cells. We discuss the relevance of these associations in normal and pathological situations.
Decidual stromal cells show a greater capacity for decidualization than endometrial stromal cells, so studies of these stromal cells should clearly distinguish between these two cell types.
Decidualization from precursor endometrial stromal cells (preEnSCs) to decidualized endometrial stromal cells (dEnSCs) in the endometrium, and from precursor decidual stromal cells (preDSCs) to decidualized decidual stromal cells (dDSCs) in the decidua. Figure created in BioRender.com