The cyclic growth, differentiation, and cell death of endometrium represents the most dynamic example of steroid-driven tissue turnover in human adults. Key effectors in these processes—matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) and their specific inhibitors (TIMPs)—are regulated by ovarian steroids and, locally, by cytokines. We used reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction to evaluate the expression of both transcriptionally regulated molecules such as estrogen receptor-α, progesterone receptor, and prolactin and a large array of MMPs and TIMPs (MMP-1, -2, -3, -7, -8, -9, -11, -12, -19, -26, MT1-MMP, MT2-MMP, MT3-MMP, TIMP-1, -2, -3). Altogether, three distinct patterns of MMP and two patterns of TIMP expression were detected in cycling endometrium: 1) MMPs restricted to the menstrual period (MMPs-1, -3, -8, -9, -12); 2) MMPs and TIMPs expressed throughout the cycle (MMP-2, MT1-MMP, MT2-MMP, MMP-19, TIMP-1, and TIMP-2); 3) MMPs predominantly expressed during the proliferative phase (MMP-7, MMP-11, MMP-26, and MT3-MMP); and 4) TIMP-3, which, contrary to the other TIMPs, shows significant modulations, with maximum expression during the late secretory and menstrual phases. These specific patterns of MMP expression associated with each phase of the cycle may point to specific roles in the processes of menstruation, housekeeping activities, angiogenesis, tissue growth, and extracellular matrix remodeling.
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