Osteopontin (OPN) is an acidic member of the small integrin-binding ligand N-linked glycoprotein (SIBLING) family of extracellular matrix proteins/cytokines that undergoes extensive posttranslational modification, including phosphorylation, glycosylation, and cleavage, yielding molecular mass variants ranging in size from 25 to 75 kDa. The result is a versatile protein(s) with multiple functions arising from its role as a mediator of cell-cell and cell-extracellular matrix (ECM) communication that encompass both normal and tumorigenic developmental processes, immunological responses during inflammation and wound healing, and biomineralization. Studies in primates, pigs, sheep, and rodents have revealed that OPN is a major constituent of the uterine-placental microenvironment with influence as 1) a component of histotroph required for adhesion and signal transduction at the uterine-placental interface throughout pregnancy, 2) a gene product expressed by uterine stroma contributing to a decidualization-like transformation that correlates with the degree of conceptus invasiveness, and 3) a product of resident uterine and placental immune cells that may regulate their behavior and cytokine production. This minireview summarizes information regarding uterine and placental expression of OPN that has accumulated over the past 15 yr, and we briefly describe structural/functional properties of this protein that are likely relevant to its role(s) during pregnancy. Comparative studies have offered insights into the potential hormonal/cytokine, cellular, and molecular mechanisms underlying OPN-mediated adhesion, remodeling, and cell-cell/cell-ECM communication within the uterus and placenta. OPN has the potential to profoundly impact pregnancy, and investigators are now challenged to focus on the mechanistic nature of the functions of this multifaceted and major component of the uterine-placental microenvironment.
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